Animal ID and monitoring

Sheep EID changes should follow cattle tag colouring system

Terry Sim, December 5, 2022

Lambs with electronic ear tags.

MAJOR tag manufacturer Leader Products wants the sheep sector to adopt the same electronic tag colour code system as operates in the cattle industry.

Currently, sheep producers buy a different colour tag for each year, while cattle producers use a white breeder tag for an animals born on their property and an orange post-breeder tag for others.

Leader Products director Bruce Dumbrell believes simplifying the multi-colored year-specific sheep tag system when a national EID system is implemented would avoid producers and tag manufacturers having specific colour tags left over each year, that have to be retained until the year for that colour tag comes around again.

State and federal agriculture and primary industries ministers are due to discuss progress on plans for a national sheep and goat electronic identification system at the next AMM meeting on 7 December. Cost sharing and tag costs are key issues in discussions being held between farmers, the supply chain and governments as they work toward a 1 January 2025 start date for a mandatory EID system for sheep and goats.

“Our idea is to have a coloured (EID) tag for the (sheep) breeder, which we would recommend say yellow and then anyone who wants to have a coloured tag for the year, just uses a secondary cheap visual tag,” Mr Dumbrell said.

Mr Dumbrell said if the sheep industry adopted a species colour tag, Leader Products would supply a micron tag or management for colour of year included in the cost. This already occurs with wool producers being supplied a round button tag  — attached with electronic tags — to signify a specific fleece micron category.

A sheep EID tag of just one colour meant it would be applicable for use in any year, potentially minimizing producers’ overall tag wastage and costs, and eliminating situations where manufacturers are left with stocks of year-specific coloured tags, he said.

“If we don’t have to manufacture all the different colours, then we just have the one (coloured) sheep tag and you don’t have any left overs at the end of the year that have to sit around with the expensive transponders in them until that color comes up again.

“The more tags that we can have into the one colour and carry that stock, the better for everyone.”

Mr Dumbrell said in some years tag manufacturers might have hundreds of thousands of EID tags in a specific colour that have to be carried for years until they will be required under the current sheep system.

“If the tag transponder costs us about 80 cents and you have 100,000 left over, that’s $80,000 sitting there in stock until you can sell them again.”

Mr Dumbrell said excess tags can sometimes be sold overseas, but this is not ideal.

“If you restrict how many tags you make in a certain colour you could run out, whereas if it is one colour you don’t have any problem keeping them for next year.”

Taskforce advice to be considered on 7 December

Sheep and Goat Traceability Task Force chair Ron Cullen said the task force has provided advice to officials in relation to the agriculture ministers’ September 2022 agreement to work toward national implementation of individual eID for sheep and goats by 1 January 2025, including in relation to timelines.

“It is my understanding that SGTTF advice to officials is being relayed to all Agriculture Ministers for the upcoming meeting on 7 December 2022.

“I anticipate a communiqué will be released following the meeting,” he said.

“The preliminary work of the SGTTF was informed by a peak industry-government co-design initiative that was undertaken between August and November 2022.

“This work examined key implementation areas around governance, data, infrastructure and technology, cost implications, communication and engagement, and national timeframes,” Mr Cullen said.

“More broadly, this is a significant undertaking and is being progressed to give full effect to Agriculture Ministers’ request that this important reform is progressed in a joint way between industry and government.

“This cannot be done overnight and it will take time to appropriately work through the detail with a wide range of stakeholders,” he said.

“We are only at the start of the process.

“There has been significant consultation and engagement to date between industry and governments,” Mr Cullen said.

“There will be further consultation and engagement to come over the coming months into 2023 as this work progresses, including by states and territories with their stakeholders.

“The focus is on achieving harmonised outcomes and supporting implementation of these reforms in jurisdictions in a way that brings the best outcomes in the most practical way possible for stakeholders.”

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Comments

  1. Johann Schroder, December 14, 2022

    Ear tags are a target for welfare activists. An extra tag just to add colour will be grist to their mill.

  2. Bruce Dumbrell, December 6, 2022

    To clarify, if we adopt species colour tags, Leader Products would supply a micron tag or management for colour of year included in the cost.
    Our objective here is to reduce the cost of EID tags. Farmers with EID tags over ordered won’t have to wait and carry the tags over until the next time that tag colour comes around. Leader Products started the colour of year system in WA 50 years ago and made it national so we know a lot about it and it’s popularity. We have all colours available for EID and visual tags. We are suggesting the species tag to save all costs nothing more.

  3. Peter Small, December 6, 2022

    I quite understand Mr Drummbell’s argument. But if Woolproducers and Sheep Producers Australia let him get away with it, then our industry really does have a problem.

  4. Mark Bieser, December 6, 2022

    From a farmer perspective, I rely on the different colour tags to determine the age of my flock. A solution which relies on the farmer paying for a second tag and performing another process and driving more costs into the livestock system is not a solution. Ear tag suppliers could supply left over tags at a discount to be used for terminal lambs. Win-win for everyone.

  5. Bruce Dumbrell, December 6, 2022

    To clarify: If we adopt species colour we would supply a micron tag or management for colour of year included in the cost.
    Our objective here is to reduce the cost of the EID tags. Farmers with EID tags over ordered won’t have to wait and carry the tags over until the next time that tag colour comes around. Leader Products started the colour of year system in Western Australia 50 years ago and made it national so we know a lot about it and its popularity. We have all colours available for EID and visual tags. We are suggesting the species tag to save all costs, nothing more.

  6. Rodney Watt, December 6, 2022

    Interesting. I’m not sure that most producers will like not having colour of the year. If the EID is not being used through an autodrafter then year colour becomes important. If the tags cost 80c, then there seems to be a considerable mark-up when sold to a producer.
    Maybe use a non-year colour like brown or grey for the EID tags as well, and offer them cheaper to reflect the savings the suppliers will make, and the colour of year EID tag at standard price.

  7. Don McNab, December 5, 2022

    The sheep year colour system works well. If Leader doesn’t want to meet the requirements of producers that is their loss. Other manufacturers will surely provide the service we require. Two tags is just extra cost to the producer that is not necessary. There is also the welfare implication of an extra application.

  8. Adam Mort, December 5, 2022

    What ever they come up with can we please have a ten-year cycle on the colors instead of the current eight we have for sheep?

  9. Andrew Hunter, December 5, 2022

    Tell Leader where to get off. It’s not about them; it’s about the producer. It’s an unabashed grab to get producers to buy two tags per animal. We will still need the colours to distinguish age. The EID will not displace use of the colours for quick identification and drafting of animals.

    • Robin Steen, December 5, 2022

      Well said Andrew.
      The year tag colour is the best and only way of identifying sheep ages through a draft.

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