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Best Practice Biosecurity: Data at Heart

By Pene Keynes and Emily Buddle, South Australian Biosecurity Extension team

The use of individual electronic identification (EID) is a hot topic across the sheep industry. Conversations about EID have been dominated by whether or not the South Australian industry should follow Victoria’s lead and mandate the use of EID tags to enhance supply chain traceability.

While traceability is extremely important for disease management and market access, the benefits of using EID technology to capture reliable data to support animal health and biosecurity decisions on-farm must be a greater part of the conversation.

It is technology that is also critical for rapid responses to Emergency Animal Diseases such as Foot and Mouth.

Producers are professional decision makers – their business success relies on them making strategic decisions, and making them at the right time. Implementing EID within a business is often driven by the need for improved data management so business decisions can be supported by evidence rather than gut feeling alone.

There are a number of ways that EID can capture data to drive productivity improvements for sheep. One example includes scanning for multiple and single-bearing ewes and recording which ewes have consistently reared twins or triplets year-on-year to better inform classing decisions.

But what about the benefits of capturing individual animal information for health and biosecurity?Best practice biosecurity has data capture at its heart. Maintaining accurate records is important for animal health management and to support your biosecurity credentials.

Producers who have experienced a disease incursion often wish they had kept better records to identify the source, inform their management or eradication process, and minimse the risk of spread throughout their flock or region.

Using EID technology can help producers capture and store animal health records digitally. This facilitates quick, accurate collection, easy access, and improvements in the overall quality of the record.

Storing records digitally in a central location also helps producers collate information in the event of an on-farm audit, such as a Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) audit.

EID technology can also be used to capture movement records when moving sheep from property to property, trading sheep or even just moving sheep between paddocks on your property. Knowing where sheep have been and what they may have encountered is an important part of disease risk management.

EID tags also provide the opportunity to capture and record the health status of each individual animal, including which vaccinations, drenches or lice treatments they have received and if they have been treated for a particular illness. Easy access to this information can help with filling in Sheep Health Declarations, informing treatment rotations, and keeping track of withhold periods.

Producers may also decide to invest in a farm management software which can store the individual animal data. Many software providers offer functionality for producers to set up alerts when sheep are due for vaccination or drenching, helping improve animal health planning and management.

Digital data also makes for easier sharing, so producers and processors have the option to request animal health and production data from the vendor when purchasing sheep with EID tags.

While the productivity benefits of data-based decision making have borne the spotlight in promotion of EID technology, there are clear benefits of using EID to improve on-farm animal health and biosecurity.

For support in implementing better biosecurity practices on-farm, contact Emily or Pene through the Livestock SA office on 08 8297 2299.

The South Australian Livestock Biosecurity Extension project has been made possible by the South Australian Government’s Red Meat and Wool Growth Program and Animal Health Australia through the National Sheep Industry Biosecurity Strategy 2019-2024.

11 June 2021 Media Type: Column / Industry Dev: Biosecurity / Policy Area: Biosecurity /