Young Victorian believes electronic tags can bring farmers back to sheep

Terry Sim December 7, 2016
Culla sheep producer Anthony Close

Culla sheep producer Anthony Close

YOUNG Western District sheep producer Anthony Close has a different view of Victoria’s go-it-alone move to mandate electronic sheep and goat identification.

He believes wider use of electronic identification systems on sheep farms for production and management benefits, could ultimately help bring young people back into the sheep industry.

Many older sheep producers at one of Agriculture Victoria’s recent EID information workshops, in Hamilton yesterday, expressed frustration at the lack of consultation before the State Government decided to mandate electronic identification of sheep and goats. Their questions highlighted the urgent need for further training, information and extension on electronic tags, EID equipment and transition rules for the state’s sheep producers.

Producers were told at Hamilton they did not need to do anything other than put an electronic tag in the ear of lambs born after January 1 2017 to comply with the new EID system, made mandatory for biosecurity and market access reasons. Agriculture Victoria staff also said more training and extension would be done to meet producers’ needs, but 24–year-old Anthony said electronic identification was the first real innovation in the sheep industry for years. He believed the labour savings made possible by using electronic tags could help arrest the loss of young farmers to other commodities.

“We’ve lost a lot of hectares to cropping because of GPS in tractors and all that sort of stuff, whereas this labour-saving innovation might drag a few people back into sheep farming or at least keep people in the industry.

“Because we know the gross margins on sheep are as strong if not stronger than what cropping gross margins are in this area,” he said.

“A lot of people have gone out of sheep because they are just too hard.

“But things like auto-drafters, EID and being able individually manage animals without even touching them, with the dollars per hectare returns from sheep, should drive people to stay in it.”

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The Close family runs a large diverse Merino stud, commercial wool and prime lamb, and beef cattle operation at Culla, north of Hamilton, and have been using EID in sheep for the past three years.

EID is used on all commercial sheep to record such things as breech scores, weaning weight, weight gain and grazing management. Sheep that need to be boxed together for more efficient grazing management can be drafted later through an auto drafter that reads the EID tags to separate mobs for shearing or on live weight for differential management.

“It allows farm management to be that much easier and more precise really.

“You can manage the animal appropriately without having 50 different mobs on the place,” Anthony said.

“It makes management a lot easier and is reducing labour.”

Anthony said producers should be able to easily quickly recoup the value of the electronic tag through labour savings.

“The benefits of just having that tag in there will be huge.”

He believed there need to be more awareness and workshops involving private service providers to inform producers of the benefits of EID.

“I think next year there will be a lot of that stuff getting done, but it needs to get done soon.”

At the Hamilton workshop, Woodhouse prime lamb producer Peter Dowdle and Merino breeder Stephen Silcock said they had invested in sheep handling and EID equipment but needed training to maximise its benefits. Other producers needed NLIS database and software training.

From January 1, 2017, all sheep and goats born in Victoria will require an electronic National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) tag before they leave their property of birth.

Producers can register for further EID workshops online or by calling 03 5761 1647 or emailing [email protected]

Remaining workshop dates and locations

Thursday, December 8 – 7.30am        Chalambar Golf Club, Ararat

Thursday, December 8 – 9am              Agriculture Victoria office at Epsom, Bendigo

Thursday, December 8 – 5.30pm        Mia Mia Hall, Mia Mia

Tuesday, December 13 – 1pm             Victorian Livestock Exchange, Sale

Tuesday, December 13 – 9am             ‘Glasshouse’ Lakeside Community Centre, Benalla

Wednesday, December 14 – 9am       Agriculture Victoria office, Rutherglen

The workshops will run for about 2.5 hours. More details on the workshops, including how to register, is available at or by calling 136 186.


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  1. Livestock trucker, December 14, 2016

    I went to the Hamilton briefing. There was no recognition of issues around delivery and pickup of livestock to saleyards. Issues about handling and scanning 65,000 sheep (Hamilton this week) were dismissed with “saleyards can handle any number of sheep or lambs, it’s just not an issue”. Well, tell that to the agents at Hamilton that were drafting sheep until 5am in the morning. Add in scanning NLIS tags and any hiccup or delay in technology or scanning will derail a sale like this. And what about transporters waiting to unload or load, has anyone even considered animal welfare of sheep waiting on trucks or in yards for hours longer than now? That is “their problem, they’ll fix it”, well no, it’s not. It’s the Victorian Government’s responsibility to create a system that will and can work, and to listen to agents and saleyards who are telling them it isn’t going to. I hope farmers are ready to pay a lot more than 5.5 percent for agent fees on selling lambs, because the costs of all that labour in scanning will get passed on, it’s not going to be done for free. Full names required in future for reader comments please Livestock Trucker, as per our long-standing comments policy: Editor.

  2. Glenn Phillip Nix, December 7, 2016

    I wish people would think before spewing out the party line. 1 – Before you recoup those labour saving costs of tags you need to spend $20,000 on an auto drafter and redesign your yard. 2 – Higher returns for wool and sheep are seeing a return back to stock that will be quickened by the prices for grain, not novelty tags. If anything, needing a auto drafter is another barrier to re-entry. 3 – GPS was not around when wool crashed and the exodus started due to higher returns from grains against actual losses from sheep, not electronic toys. 4 – all that boxing and re-drafting is extra work.

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