VICTORIAN saleyard managers have been told sheep and goat electronic identification implementation dates would not be changed despite rumours some stock agents might seek an extension.
Agriculture Victoria’s director for sheep electronic identification Warren Straw told the Australian Livestock Saleyards Association annual conference in Melbourne last week that the cut-off date of October 31 for saleyard Phase II funding applications was “locked in” and would not be changed.
Mr Straw said key implementation dates included December 31 2017 when all EID-tagged sheep and goats must be scanned in abattoirs to a performance level of above 80 percent.
“We’ve already got one abattoir doing that routinely, we’ve got six that are doing it almost completely.
“Over the next few months you will see more processors fully able to meet their requirements and by December 31 we are confident that they all will.”
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Mr Straw said by March 31 2018 saleyards will also be required to be scanning all EID-tagged sheep and goats to a performance level of above 80pc.
“They are locked into legislation, so we’ve got amendments to livestock disease control regulations – those dates are locked in.
“And the 31st October date is not a legislative date, but we are not shifting that one either.”
He said he would prefer to get as many of the saleyard applications as possible before October 31.
It’s important that saleyard operational plans detail the entire process, including what equipment and maintenance is needed, how will sheep be inducted, scanned and NVDs processed, and how will data be collected and provided, and anomalies such as untagged sheep are resolved, he said.
“We are aware that not all the equipment is available in its final form, so certainly Aleis and Shearwell for example are developing new open top readers.
“Whether the testing of those is complete by the 31st of October, we’re not sure,” he said.
“If you are in a situation where you’ve got a Phase II application and you would like some equipment that is not quite finalised, we are happy to accept indicative quotes and get the final quote as soon as that is available.
“The deadline is fixed but (there is) flexibility about how we can work with you to meet the needs of your saleyard.”
A saleyard manager said there were rumours that the Australian Livestock and Property Agents Association was organising a contingent of stock agents to try to push some of the implementation dates back.
Mr Straw said he was not sure if ALPA was going to do that “but I can imagine they might and we are not going to be supporting changing dates.
“It’s up to the Minister of course, but we wouldn’t recommend that.”
ALPA southern regional manager Liz Summerville said ALPA was not seeking an implementation date extension from either Victoria’s Sheep and Goat ID Advisory Committee or Minister Pulford “at this stage.”
“We do not know where this came from, but it certainly makes sense if the timelines set cannot be met.”
Ms Summerville said ALPA is meeting with members of the Sheep and Goat ID Advisory Committee at the end of August and she is hoping for an open and honest discussion “and for everyone to be on the same page with the most up to date information.”
“One of the items that we are very keen to reiterate to this committee and Agriculture Victoria is the lack of realistic trials in commercial environments.
“ALPA has from day one, asked if the Government had proof of the RFID working in a commercial environment,” she said.
“We have been assured many times that the hardware and software are capable.
“Sadly, this is not the case and we believe the industry has been misled.”
Ms Summerville said ALPA has previously been told by Agriculture Victoria representatives that the technology exists, but at the present time we understand that some hardware and software companies are still in the development phase.
“ALPA and our members are very mindful that final submissions from saleyards are due 31st October for RFID scanning infrastructure and time is certainly ticking away.
“We want to be sure that saleyards and agents agree on the best possible solution for their location and to ensure that all possible scenarios are trialled and put to the test,” she said.
“We certainly don’t want to see saleyards rushing to complete their submission without a thorough investigation.
“We must learn from mistakes made with the introduction of cattle RFID,” Ms Summerville said.
“It is essential to work through all options to ensure the best outcome, both parties are confident and agree on the way forward and does not impact OH&S and animal welfare and blow costs out.
ALPA have been asking Agriculture Victoria representatives for some time about funding for agents and saleyards and we continue to be assured that there will be enough money to fund mandatory RFID,” she said.
“We are very interested to have this clarified as who will pay if the funding is not sufficient.
Mr Straw thanked ALSA and the other saleyard managers at the conference for the way they had engaged with Agriculture Victoria on the EID reform.
“It is a critical reform and your attitude to a successful outcome has been fantastic and it has been exactly the way we need to be working together.”
He said the implementation process was not straightforward for saleyards and the result depended on a collaborative approach.
Mr Straw more trial work would be held with saleyards, equipment and software suppliers would be held in August.
Since Victorian Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford announced the state would mandate electronic tagging of sheep and goats on August 23 last year, Agriculture Victoria had run its tag tender and provided the most competitively priced tags in Australia.
“We’re currently looking at about 8 million tags in Victoria, prior to that it was a handful.”
Mr Straw said the National Livestock Identification System database is already handling EID tag data for Victoria “and we are confident that system has got the capacity.”