Lamb Production

Ag consultant challenges sheep EID ‘myths and madness’

Sheep Central October 14, 2016
Nathan Scott scanning ewes with electronic ear tags.

Nathan Scott scanning ewes with electronic ear tags.

AGRICULTURAL consultant Nathan Scott has moved to explode what he calls ‘sheep EID myths and madness’ in an open letter posted on his business website this week.

Mr Scott is a Geelong-based consultant with Achieve AG Solutions, has been a pioneer in the introduction of electronic identification livestock systems on farms and was involved in Agriculture Victoria-sponsored workshops that promoted the use of EID in sheep operations.

The Achieve AG Solutions website says Mr Scott has a background in prime lamb production, and a passion for improving the productivity and profitability of livestock enterprises, working with producers to increase conception rates, improve lamb survival, lift growth rates, and hone overall management. The website claims Mr Scott is the leading Australian provider of advice in the practical use of electronic identification within stud and commercial sheep and cattle enterprises. Click here to get Sheep Central story links sent to your email inbox.

In his website post, Mr Scott said the Achieve AG Solutions team has watched “myths and madness prevail” in much of the discussion around Victoria’s decision to go mandatory with an electronic ID system.

“I am all for open conversation on the topic, but what becomes frustrating is the inaccuracies conveyed by those having the most to say.

“So let’s have open conversation, but let’s make sure it is accurate and well-informed, and not simply hearsay or even worse, scaremongering.”

Sheep EID in Victoria would enhance national system

Mr Scott said the introduction of EID for sheep and goats in Victoria would not damage the national traceability system.

The new EID system would require sheep coming into Victoria to carry a tag with a Producer Identification Code printed on it, and sheep within Victoria and those leaving Victoria will require an electronic tag which also has a PIC number printed on it, he said.

“The difference between Victoria and other states will simply be that automated electronic recording systems will also capture electronic information in Victorian saleyards, abattoirs and property to property sales.

“This is in no way damaging the existing systems, it is enhancing them.”

Mr Scott said Victoria waiting for a national sheep EID approach “would absolutely have been the best outcome”, but he believed if Victoria had waited for this, it wouldn’t happen in his lifetime unless there was a serious disease or market access issue which drove an instantaneous response.

“Should an entire industry travel at the pace of the slowest participant?”

Farmers also would not have to buy equipment, apart from the electronic tag for lambs born after January 1 2017, unless they want to use the technology on farm, he said.

Mr Scott argued that electronic identification of sheep and goats was necessary to protect Australia’s biosecurity status and promote the reliability of traceability systems, rejecting the contention that ‘mob-based is fine’.

“Did you know that just seven sheep infected with foot and mouth disease made it into a saleyards in the UK which resulted in the destruction of over 6 million animals throughout the outbreak — just 7!”

Mr Scott said there will be challenges as the new EID system is implemented, but the only way any member of the supply chain will benefit will be through embracing the opportunities, not resisting them.

To read Nathan Scott’s full post click here.


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  1. Brad Bellinger, October 16, 2016

    I refer again to the agribusiness online audit on the efficacy of RFID NLIS for cattle conducted over 17 Producer Identification Codes and involving the movements of 57,000 cattle, showing that 34.5 percent of cattle had lost their whole of life traceability at the time of slaughter. I admit that when the audit was done 14pc were orange taggers; however, over time the accuracy of the database got worse.
    If the electronic database was used to track the 7 sheep with foot and mouth disease and their cohorts, then there is only a 65pc chance that they would be destroying sheep from the correct farm. Not good enough.
    The foot and mouth scare for RFID was also trotted out with cattle NLIS. With an estimated 23 million wild pigs in Australia, many millions of wild goats and who knows how many wild deer particularly in Victoria, if FMD arrived in Australia then it would be impossible to contain or eradicate. The billion wasted on RFID for cattle would be better spent eradicating ferals and tighter border security.
    It is sheer fallacy to suggest that individual RFID would benefit the consumer. Traceability ends at the knocking box. Over 60pc of processed pork is now imported into Australia. Buy a pack of bacon and it is labelled made from Australian and imported ingredients. Not only do consumers not know which individual animal the meat came from, they don’t even know from which country. Domestic beef consumption has dropped considerably in the 11 years since RFID NLIS for cattle was introduced.
    If the Victorian government is offering a cost-neutral RFID traceback system then they had better expect to waste at least $100m over the next five years on a good management tool that is hopeless as a cost-effective traceback system. There are tens of millions of ghost cattle on the NLIS database. It is an absolute disgrace.

  2. Nathan Scott, October 15, 2016

    Interesting approach Bill Mac – “when was the last disease outbreak”. Based on that logic, I assume you don’t have ambulance cover either. After all when was your last heart attack or car accident or stroke? The past is not always a good predictor of the future.

    And Glen you are right, the tags don’t stop those infected sheep making it into the saleyards. What they do is allow the relevant bodies to track all cohorts of animals that have been in contact with them and contain the outbreak asap. The aim is to limit damage. If we can’t find them, we can’t trade. We need to prove eradication asap and work hard to re-open export markets

  3. Glenn Phillip Nix, October 14, 2016

    Electronic tags will not stop those 7 sheep from going to a saleyard will they?

  4. John Marriott, October 14, 2016

    A bit of co-operation in ensuring electronic ID happens sooner rather than later would be much more beneficial to the industry.

  5. Pru Barkla, October 14, 2016

    Congratulations Scott – why are sheep producers so slow to change and uptake all this new technology. Great entry time for Queensland producers – not a lot of sheep and a powerful piece of equipment to move one’s flock fast. Bring it on Queensland and let’s beat New South Wales.

  6. Bill mac, October 14, 2016

    Sounds to me like Scott has no idea. When was the last disease outbreak? The mob system is working well. Another cost on us farmers. Full names required in future for reader comments please Bill Mac, as per our long-standing comments policy: Editor.

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