Reports reveal flaws in Australia’s sheep ID system

Image credit: Free Digital Photos user James Barker

Two Commonwealth reports have confirmed what was already a well-known fact—that Australia is in need of a better and more effective system for tracking and identifying goats and sheep.

Image credit: Free Digital Photos user James Barker
Image credit: Free Digital Photos user James Barker

In the latest media release on the official website of the Premier of Victoria, Minister for Agriculture and Food Security, Mr. Peter Welsh voiced his opinion with regard to the findings.

“The Commonwealth Government has released an ABARES report which confirms a multi-state outbreak of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) could cost the Australian economy more than $50 billion and cause catastrophic damage to our ability to export meat, wool and dairy products,” Mr. Walsh said.

“The Federal Department of Agriculture has also released a Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement (CRIS) on sheep and goat identification which indicates Australia cannot continue with the current paper-based system.”

According to Mr. Walsh, these two reports make it abundantly clear that Victoria and other states must work with the Commonwealth towards restructuring the current ineffective system in order to protect the precious livestock industries from diseases and other misfortunes that may instigate major economic difficulties in the future.

Mr. Walsh also reveals that the CRIS have pinpointed three potential systems for tracking and identification of livestock, although none of those include the current form of the NLIS (Sheep & Goats) system. The first option is a mob – based system with visually readable tags and mandatory checks of paperwork, while the remaining two systems are fully electronic systems equipped with electronic tagging and movement tracking.

In his statement, Mr. Walsh expressed his preference for the electronic system.

“It is Victoria’s position that visually read tags and mandatory checks would be very labour intensive and extremely difficult for industry personnel to manage successfully given time and logistical constraints, particularly in sale yards and abattoirs,” he said.

“Electronic tagging is already used voluntarily in Victoria and there is encouraging feedback that as well as providing additional traceability capacity, it can also improve the profitability of sheep meat and wool enterprises through on-farm efficiency gains.”

The Minister further highlights the importance of the pending changes and maintains that status quo is simply not an option for the state of Victoria. According to him, Victoria is now waiting to receive the feedback from the shareholders with regards to the CRIS evaluations.