WESTERN Australia could be the first state outside Victoria to mandate electronic ear tagging of its sheep and farmed goat flocks if the state’s largest farmer advocacy body has its way.
WA’s McGowan Government last month announced $3.4 million to support the introduction of mandatory electronic identification for sheep and goats in the state.
A WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development spokesperson said the Western Australian NLIS Sheep and Goat Advisory Group is working to a timeline for all newborns and every sheep and goat moving off a property to be identified with an NLIS electronic identification (EID) device by the agreed mandatory implementation date of 1 January 2025.
“Existing sheep and goats on property with visual NLIS tags will need to have an EID fitted, while retaining their visual tags, prior to leaving the property.
“Homebred stock will require a yellow EID and non-home bred stock will need a pink EID.
“The advisory group’s intention is to have sheep and goats fitted with an EID device moving through the supply chain prior to 2025 to test the supply chain infrastructure, as it comes online,” the spokesperson said.
WAFarmers Livestock Council president Geoff Pearson told Sheep Central this week the federation is seeking the electronic ear tagging of all sheep and farmed goats in the state by 1 January 2025.
“We are encouraging the government to follow suit.”
However, Western Australia’s other farm advocacy group, the Pastoralists and Graziers Association, is maintaining its opposition to mandatory EID sheep and goat tagging in the state.
Mr Pearson said WAFF is encouraging members to put electronic tags in their sheep and goats the next time they handle them.
“Ultimately we are encouraging our members to (EID) tag now, but there has got to be an end date that we are working towards and that’s 2025,” he said.
“We hope to have everything tagged by then.”
He said there has been some uncertainty about the position of animals sent direct to slaughter, with WAFF discussing with the government the possibility of an EID tag exemption for older stock and rangeland goats going direct to slaughter.
“That’s something we are working through.”
Mr Pearson said implementation cost-sharing between the state and industry was still being considered, with possibly tag subsidies and some funding to set up a database. He supports a national electronic tag tender, but doesn’t support government subsidization of EID hardware for farmers, saleyards and processors.
“We need to be investing in the technology of tags and the database for the betterment of the industry.”
Mr Pearson said the WA Government has given no indication when a final EID implementation plan will be finalised. Former WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan was replaced by Margaret River winemaker Jackie Jarvis in a cabinet reshuffle late last month.
Proposed WA timeline would be two years ahead of NSW
If the proposed WA timetable is implemented it would put the state at least two years ahead of Australia’s most populous sheep state, New South Wales, the only state with a sheep/farmed goat EID timeline agreed to by its peak farmer body (NSW Farmers) and the state government.
The proposed NSW sheep and goat electronic identification implementation plan includes that all sheep and farmed goats born on or after 1 January 2025 will require an EID device and that any animals leaving a property must have electronic identification from 1 January 2027. All NSW meat processors will be required to start EID scanning farmed sheep and goats from 30 June 2024 and the state’s saleyards, depots and property-to-property transfers of stock will require EID scanning from 1 January 2025.
PGA see NLIS database improvements as higher priority
Chair of the Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA Livestock Committee Chris Patmore said Western Australia already had a good sheep and goat traceability system, incorporating pink visual transaction tags.
“We have always said we will support mandatory EID when we can be convinced that the benefits will outweigh the costs, but we’re not convinced yet.
“We’re against it, but we do acknowledge that it’s coming – the ministers nationwide have told us it is coming and if it’s coming we’ve got to wear it,” he said.
“But we’re concerned about the National Livestock Identification System database and the property-to-property transactions, none of which are going to be improved by bringing in EID.
“There are going to have to be bigger changes than just EIDs if we want to improve traceability.”
Mr Patmore acknowledged that updating the current NLIS database was included in SAFEMEAT recommendations aim at improving national livestock traceability and federal Minister for Agriculture Murray Watt has committed $26 million for that purpose.
“There has been talk about it, but to my knowledge there has been nothing brought in yet.”
The PGA would like to see the national NLIS database updated at the same time as any mandatory EID tagging system, he said.
“Because unless that is done we are wasting our time bringing in the tagging.”
If mandatory EID tagging of sheep and goat was implemented, WA producers should be subsidized for tag and hardware costs, Mr Patmore said.
“There should be because WA has already got a very satisfactory or exceptional system and producers are going to have to pay for something that’s probably not needed in WA to drag the other states up to the standard that we’ve got in WA.
“So I don’t think the WA producers should have to be paying for it.”
Mr Patmore said PGA was disappointed it had not seen any asssessment on whether of the WA system is meeting national traceability performance standards. But despite the lack of evidence as to its performance, he said the WA transaction tag system is “quite clearly a very good system.”
“There’s been no audit done on it, but a blind man could see that it’s a good system.”
Mr Patmore said mandatory EID tagging would put more cost on the sheep industry, swinging gross margins in favour of alternative land uses such as cropping.
“Our feeling is that the majority of our members and the majority of producers in WA are against mandatory EIDs.
“Unless they are in support of it, it is going to be a long hard process to implement it,” he said.
“It looks like it is going to happen, but they are going to force it on us without the support of producers.”