WESTERN Australian sheep and cattle owners, industry and the community are encouraged to provide feedback on a proposal to make earmarking and branding of stock optional.
Under the proposal, the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development would amend the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management (Identification and Movement of Stock and Apiaries) Regulations 2013 to remove the mandatory requirements for earmarking sheep and earmarking or branding cattle.
Department product integrity manager Brad McCormick said sheep and cattle owners would be able to choose whether to continue or cease earmarking and branding their stock.
“Earmarking and branding of livestock was first used over 100 years ago in Western Australia as a permanent means of identification of ownership of sheep and cattle.
“While this system, if applied correctly, is useful to visually identify the original owner of the animals, it is not able to identify subsequent owners nor to record movements through the supply chain,” Dr McCormick said.
“Modern livestock supply chains require identification and traceability systems that can record multiple owners and record movements. The National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) provides this ability and underpins Australia’s biosecurity, market access and food safety.
“As the NLIS provides an identification capability, there is reduced need for earmarking and branding, and most other Australian jurisdictions have removed mandatory earmarking and branding requirements,” he said.
Dr McCormick said the department recognised some producers would wish to continue to earmark or brand and hence the department would continue to issue stock brands and earmarks to registered owners and to maintain the database to support this ability.
“The department will retain the integrity of the identification system for owners to use their unique earmarks or brands, including the retention of high penalties for tampering with, defacing or using someone else’s identifiers,” he said.
Dr McCormick said other than removing provisions for mandatory earmarking and branding, the NLIS regulations would not be changed except to bring the timing for cattle NLIS identification in line with sheep NLIS tagging.
“Under the changes, cattle would need to be identified with an NLIS device before six months of age in the South-West or 18 months in pastoral areas, or before leaving the property, whichever occurs first,” he said.
“NLIS identification within this changed timeframe will be required even if the owner chooses to earmark or brand.”
Sheep visual NLIS tags will continue to be printed with the owner’s brand.
To find out more about the proposal and to have your say, visit Talking Biosecurity here.
The consultation period runs for five weeks until 5pm AWST on 22 December 2020.