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Victoria’s mandatory sheep and goat EID roll-out to get federal funds boost

by Terry Sim, 16 August 2017
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MLA managing director Richard Norton

DATA-DRIVEN value adding and innovation in Victoria’s sheep and goat meat supply chain will be developed through a unique agreement between the state and Meat & Livestock Australia’s Donor Company.

The MLA Donor Company has told Agriculture Victoria it is willing to invest up to $15 million to co-fund sheep and goat EID research and development projects – on a project-by-project approval basis.

MDC has said it will match funds for individual projects on a 50:50 basis up to $15 million for projects submitted by Agriculture Victoria and approved by the MDC board.

MDC has agreed in-principle to potentially co-fund projects with Agriculture Victoria over the next three years to determine ways to add commercial value to the red meat and livestock industry from mandatory individual electronic identification of sheep in Victoria.

The projects aim to boost value chain productivity and performance using a data-driven approach starting with the electronic identification of sheep, lambs and goats in Victoria.

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The first AV-MDC project is expected to look specifically at leveraging individual animal information collected through EID to increase the capability of producers and processors. The project aims to improve business productivity and performance through using data to enable more informed decision making.

The initial project, pending final approval from the MDC Board within weeks, will focus on several areas, including:

develop the skills of producers to collect EID information, analyse data and implement decisions based on that information

identify barriers to information collection and flow across the value chain and develop tailored training and support strategies for all value chain participants

facilitate improved communication and interaction in the value chain through three supply chain officers who will support on-farm decision making and help ensure maximum value from generated data (such as objective measurement and other forms of feedback)

further develop the capabilities of farm advisers to provide informed advice and services to producers in the collection, analysis and use of individual animal information.

Innovation and meeting market specifications

MLA managing director Richard Norton said given Victoria is the first state in Australia to proceed with the introduction of sheep EID, the project provides a unique opportunity to collect and analyse EID information with the intent to improve the flow of data between value chain segments to support business growth and extract commercial value.

“To add the most value to our industry, the capability of the value chain, and the processes within it, must be more developed in order to properly utilise the significant amount of data now being generated.

“By working with all participants in the value chain, this project will focus on delivering information that will assist on farm, beyond current decision making processes,” he said.

“It will also look at how processors and farm advisers can facilitate an improved flow of information to enable informed decision making.

“Ultimately, this project will contribute to addressing barriers to improved value chain data exchange and provide producers with the know-how to help deliver carcasses that meet market specification.”

Agriculture Victoria director for sheep electronic identification Warren Straw

Agriculture Victoria’s Director for Sheep Electronic Identification Warren Straw said part of the rationale behind making electronic identification compulsory for sheep and goat producers is to encourage innovation, giving the industry a competitive advantage.

“A partnership with MLA provides an opportunity to leverage Victoria’s investment to further innovation.

“We look forward to further discussions with MLA to utilise data from electronic tags to boost productivity.”

MDC cannot duplicate similar EID R&D in other states

MDC-Agriculture Victoria agreement is believed to be the first significant Federal Government support of the roll-out of EID in Australia’s sheep and goat industry, although it does not represent a precedent for further funding of sheep and goat EID in other states. The Australian Government matches voluntary partner contributions (up to 50pc) through the MDC, where eligible projects deliver outcomes that address broader industry and/or government priorities and benefit the entire industry. Mr Norton said the MDC could not fund the duplication of research and development.

“If we’ve executed this research and development with Victoria and another state wants to do the same, but the methodologies and the outcomes have already been set, then we can’t duplicate it with a new state.”

Mr Norton said the issue of a potential national roll-out of EID for sheep and goats was “an industry issue and not one for MLA to take a position on.”

As far as he knew, the Integrity Systems Co Ltd, which administers the National Livestock Identification System, has had no advice from another state thinking of introducing EID for sheep and goats.

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  • Brad Bellinger August 17, 2017

    This is only replicating work that could already have been done with cattle NLIS. Richard Norton’s claim that this is a unique situation to collect data is incorrect. Interesting that while Barnaby Joyce has publicly denounced RFID for sheep in Victoria, he is standing mute on the allocation of $15m of federal funds to help shore up a system that is inadequately funded by a poorly-advised state government.
    Barnaby knows that a vast majority of livestock producers are opposed to mandatory RFID NLIS; however, (he) provides a smoke screen to placate his constituents, then does the opposite.

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