VICTORIA’S State Government has asked other states to join in its latest tender for electronic sheep ear tags as it continues to promote the wider use of EID in sheep and goats, and paperless livestock tracking.
In Melbourne last Friday, Victoria’s Minister for Agriculture and Regional Development Jaala Pulford opened the Livestock Saleyards Association of Victoria annual conference and said there was growing acceptance of EID in sheep and goats, and mandatory tagging was “probably an inevitable move”.
Mandatory electronic tagging of sheep and goats in the state was not “a question of if, but when”, the state had led on EID in cattle and was not afraid to lead again, she said.
Ms Pulford said the Victorian Government had this week issued tender documents to continue to drive the price of electronic tags down “and to test what the price might be if the tagging was mandatory”.
“So we are asking for a competitive tender – we want to check what the price is at 400,000 and we want to check what the price is at 10 million.
“That’s a big difference when you think about current use versus all-in and it’s not hard to imagine that is going to put a good bit of downward pressure on price,” she said.
“We have also invited other states to join us in this tender if they are so inclined.”
GST-exempt electronic sheep ear tags are available in Victoria for 83-90 cents, including postage and handling, about 2.5-3 times the price of a standard visual tag.
Ms Pulford said the industry was getting closer to the tipping point between cost and benefit of electronic tags for sheep and goats.
“And I think that there is a growing acceptance that we need to move this way.”
She would not be drawn on what tag cost the government believed might precipitate a move to mandatory EID tagging, adding there were also issues of industry preparedness and the readiness of other state jurisdictions.
“Because the traceability element would be undermined if other states weren’t also heading in that direction.”
But looking at research projects and improvements on farm and in abattoirs, there was an inevitability to mandatory EID tags, Ms Pulford said.
“We need to balance that with industry’s preparedness and readiness for it.”
LSAV gets $60,000 to pilot an eNVD
Ms Pulford also announced the release of $60,000 to LSAV to work with stakeholders to pilot an electronic National Vendor Declaration system for Victoria’s cattle and sheep supply chains.
“This has the potential to eliminate the need for labour-intensive data entry and I think we are not all that far away from a paperless saleyard.”
She said a significant exotic disease outbreak could have dire consequences for industry, the Victorian and national economies, with a potential cost in the tens of billions of dollars.
“So we are very keen to rebuild our biosecurity capacity in this area …. and what we know is that traceability is absolutely critical.”
Ms Pulford said the ability to trace livestock movements is crucial to protect export markets, the industry, avert catastrophes and prevent further contamination.
“There are other reasons to trace livestock too; again always with an eye to the changing consumer tastes and requirements of our trading partners, because in every endeavour we are moving to a more digital world.”
Paper-based system will be more costly
Ms Pulford said last October the Federal Government published the ABARES Decision Regulatory Impact statement on the future of NLIS for sheep and goats.
“It favoured the use of electronic identification on a voluntary basis and noted that sticking to a paper-based and readable tag system would require a much more intensive and costly system of checks in saleyards.
“Electronic tagging of sheep and goats is voluntary, but in Victoria, industry acceptance of the need to move to an electronic system is growing and I would welcome your feedback or thoughts on this,” she said.
“I do ask farmers where ever I go, where ever I meet them, what they think.
“I’ve had some people say well we’ve never had it so we don’t really need it,” Ms Pulford said.
“I’ve had other people say yes, it should have been done yesterday, but I think (there is) a growing acceptance of probably an inevitable move.”
“We know that visually-readable tags and paper movement records will really limit our ability to properly respond to disease outbreak and electronic tagging holds the potential for enormous productivity benefits in the industry.”
Ms Pulford said an electronic sheep and goat National Livestock Identification System would work best if it is used in conjunction with electronic NVDs.
“And this is why the $60,000 grant for assisting the pilot program is another important step along the way.”
LSAV supportive of mandatory EID tagging with resourcing
Re-elected LSAV president Stuart McLean said the association has been talking with MLA to leverage the $60,000 grant monies to get “a much smarter roll-out” of the eNVD and assist saleyards.
Mr McLean said he was encouraged by Ms Pulford’s comments on electronic tagging of sheep and goats, and the LSAV was supportive if there was resourcing.
“Saleyards like anywhere else have to be contemporary in the way they manage, present and sell livestock.
“The old-style way of doing things are not going to cut it in the longer term.”
LSAV gets pat on the back on welfare standards
Ms Pulford said saleyards were a vital cog in the journey of livestock from paddock to plate and paddock to port. She congratulated LSAV in being instrumental in the drafting of national welfare standards for saleyards.
“I’m told these will be released for public comment by Animal Health Australia in the near future.
“Agreed standards for the management of livestock in saleyards will help industry demonstrate that we are handling animals responsibly and I commend your association for driving these initiatives.”
It important that the industry and government work together to stay ahead of changing community expectations and changes in ways animal welfare concerns are expressed, she said.