Stock Handling & Animal Welfare

WA moving to optional ear marking and branding by 2022

James Nason, June 17, 2021

EAR marking of sheep, and the ear marking and branding of cattle, are set to become optional in Western Australia in 2022, following consultation with WA producers and industry stakeholders.

Western Australia, along with Queensland and the Northern Territory, are the only states where branding of cattle is still compulsory (see our earlier article Legal requirements for cattle branding in each State and Territory while more information on tagging requirements for sheep and goats is available at the NLIS website here) .

But that is now set to change after the consultation process conducted late last year showed majority support for branding and ear marking in WA to be made optional.

A DPIRD report released this week showed that 64 percent of the 574 respondents to the consultation survey supported the proposal for sheep and cattle (the full report can be downloaded from this WA Govt link).

WA Minister for Regional Development, Agriculture and Food and Hydrogen Industry Alannah MacTiernan notified industry stakeholders yesterday that the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) has been given approval to commence drafting amendments to the state’s legislation to implement the change.

Changes to legislation are expected to occur by early 2022. Until then sheep and cattle owners in WA must continue to ear mark and/or brand under the current Biosecurity and Agriculture Management (Identification and Movement of Stock and Apiaries) Regulations 2013.

Cattle branding has also come under closer scrutiny in Queensland recently. In July last year the State Government introduced a temporary exemption removing the need for cattle with a live weight in excess of 100kg to be branded before sale. The move was introduced to prevent the need for people working in close proximity of each other during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Queensland Government is also currently conducting the first review of the State’s Animal Care and Protection Act since its introduction in 2001. It is currently considering more than 2000 submissions received during the consultation process, with a report expected in coming months.

The developments in Western Australia mean that from 2022 livestock producers in the west will have the option to stop or to continue to earmark or brand stock.

Owners will be required to apply an NLIS device to their cattle by six months of age in the South West Land Division or 18 months of age in the pastoral region, or before leaving the property, whichever occurs first.

Currently an NLIS device only needs to be applied before the cattle leave the property, regardless of age. DPIRD will continue to issue brands and ear marks to all registered owners and to maintain the stock brand register.

Good outcome: WAFarmers

Incoming WAFarmers livestock president Geoff Pearson told Beef Central the development is a good outcome for the industry.

WAFarmers livestock president Geoff Pearson. Image: MLA

“Any invasive practice is an issue from an animal welfare perspective and we have alternatives to traceability, with our cattle required to be ear tagged and NLIS identified,” he said.

“It is compulsory to brand and ear mark in WA, so giving an option is a good outcome from my perspective.

“I don’t think everybody is going to rule out the practice, there will be a certain amount of  producers that will still do it, but giving people the option not to is a good thing.

“If there is anything else we can do to help animal welfare, well that is where we want to be. We’re always looking at improving our practices.”

For more information on WA’s ear marking and branding changes as detailed on the DPIRD website click here

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