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Sheep 11

Frequently Asked Questions

What is changing and what does it mean for South Australia?

Electronic identification or eID is an electronic device with a microchip, generally contained in an ear tag.

eID of sheep and goats will enable tracing of individual sheep and goats through the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) database.

The detection of Foot and Mouth Disease in Indonesia and Bali and the recent declaration of its status as endemic in Indonesia,

has highlighted the ongoing risk of an Emergency Animal Disease (EAD) entering Australia. Our ability to identify, trace and control an EAD outbreak will determine how well our industry will recover from such an event.

In July 2022, Australia’s state and federal agriculture ministers agreed to work collaboratively with industry to advance work on a national approach to Australia’s livestock traceability systems. This included a collective agreement to introduce a national mandatory individual eID system for sheep and goats.

In September 2022, agriculture ministers agreed to transition towards nation-wide mandatory eID system for sheep and goats by 1 January 2025.

This decision was made when a gap was identified in our national sheep and goat traceability system and once in place will therefore contribute to a stronger biosecurity system, improve market access, and strengthen the livestock industry’s ability to respond to an emergency animal disease outbreak.

Details of the transition to eID, including timelines and exemptions, are currently being developed by government and industry in each state through extensive consultations.

Up until now Livestock SA has been this work for government and industry in South Australia. This work included extensive producer and industry supply chain consultation which informed a Business Case and Implementation Plan. These documents have been delivered to the State Government for their consideration and Livestock SA has not been informed(?) if these documents will be publicly available.

National and State Governments have agreed to work towards an in-principle transition to mandatory tagging of sheep and goats with electronic identification by 1 January 2025.

The South Australian Government has not announced any key dates for a local transition to sheep and goat electronic identification.

The Sheep and Goat Traceability Steering Committee have developed a business case and implementation plan with consultancy firm ACIL Allen, which includes findings from extensive consultation with producers and industry. These documents provide recommendations for the implementation of mandatory sheep and goat eID in South Australia and have been provided to the government for consideration in their decision making processes.

Livestock SA established a supply chain Sheep & Goat Traceability Steering Committee with funding from the Sheep Industry Fund and the Department of Primary Industries and Regions (PIRSA). This committee supported industry and government to assess the benefits, risks, and costs of implementing a mandatory eID system for sheep and goats in South Australia.

ACIL Allen has prepared the business case for the implementation of eID in South Australia, which was finalised in December 2022. Development of the business case included extensive consultations with producers and industries, including interviews, workshops and on-site assessments with livestock producers and supply chain businesses. An online survey has also been completed, with approximately 700 responses received.

The business case details the requirements and associated costs for implementing eID in sheep and goats in South Australia.

This document was used to develop an implementation plan for sheep and goat eID in South Australia which was finalised in May 2023 and delivered to the State Government.

Why do we need individual identification for sheep and goats?

Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) has estimated that a large multi-state outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) would have an estimated direct economic impact of around $80 billion over ten years.

If FMD was detected, Australia would be forced into a livestock standstill and banned from all red meat and wool export markets immediately.

Australia is the world’s largest sheepmeat and goatmeat exporter. The OECD-FAO expects global sheepmeat consumption to increase by 15% to 18.1 million tonnes (MT) over the next decade.

Currently, Australia exports about 70% of sheepmeat produced, 95% of goatmeat produced, and 98% of wool produced. These bans would have substantial impacts on our animal welfare, industries, and broader communities.

It has been estimated that there would be a loss of $300 million for every week Australia cannot access export markets. There would also be considerable social impacts at the individual, household, and community levels.

Sheep and goat traceability has been under review for several years, and it has been determined that eID in sheep and goats will improve the speed of tracing, improve the time to manage a FMD incident, and therefore reduce the time out of export markets for the red meat and wool industries.

The traceability system in place for sheep and goats, although improved since first tested in 2007, falls well short of the required National Livestock Traceability Performance Standards (NLTPS) based on the 2016 SheepCatcher II exercise.

In 2020 a traceability exercise by SAFEMEAT found that only 70% of slaughtered sheep with visual tags from the mob-based system could be traced back to the vendor or property of residence for the previous 30 days. When slaughtered sheep with eID were assessed for the same period, 99.4% could be traced back to the vendor or property of residence over the same period. This improvement in traceability through individual identification would be critical during an outbreak of an emergency animal disease.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), in conjunction with the WA Department of Agriculture, have produced the ‘Where’s Woolly’ educational video to help explain the benefits of individual animal identification in tracing animal movements during a disease outbreak:

Delays in tracing sheep and goats during an outbreak of an emergency animal disease can lead to the disease spreading further.

This can mean more animals are destroyed, more producers are affected and there are further delays in eradicating the disease and re-establishing lost export markets.

The speed of tracing animals in an outbreak of a disease such as Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) can have major impacts on re-accessing export markets. In 2001, an outbreak of FMD in the United Kingdom took seven weeks to trace animals. The disease spread across the country, and export market bans were in place for seven years.

Livestock SA expects there to be support from both the South Australian and Commonwealth Governments for the transition to mandatory eID however the details of what will be supported is to be determined and negotiated.

The State Government has been provided recommendations of the needs of producers and industry to transition successfully to individual sheep and goat eID through the work of the Sheep and Goat Traceability Steering Committee.

The Commonwealth Government has already announced $46.7m to aid the implementation of improved traceability across Australia. Of this, $26.6m will be directed towards the upgrade of the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) database, and $20.1m co-investment with state jurisdictions towards eID implementation.

The Commonwealth Government has also announced $20.1m of the $46.7m will be used to co-investment with state jurisdictions for eID implementation. The South Australian State Government will contribute to this co-investment, however the details are still to be determined and negotiated.

The Sheep and Goat Traceability Steering Committee provided a Business Case and Implementation Plan to the State Government to inform them of what investments are needed for the transition to sheep and goat eID in South Australia.

What does eID for sheep and goats mean for producers and industry?

The degree of costs and investment that producers and the broader supply chain will be required to outlay is yet to be fully determined. Costs and funding arrangements are currently being worked through at both state and national levels.

However, for some producers, additional costs may only include changing from visual tags to eID tags. For others in the supply chain such as saleyards, necessary infrastructure changes will have considerable associated costs.

The South Australian industry recognises that cost is a barrier to adoption and is working with the entire supply chain to quantify these costs to ensure that they are shared equitably.

The Business Case provides information on estimated costs to producers and industry and together with the implementation plan, will be used to make recommendations on required resources and support for producers and supply chain businesses.

This document has been prepared and delivered to Government, and Livestock SA is uncertain if this information will be made publicly available.

The SA Sheep and Goat Traceability Steering Committee has considered all the information from producers and the supply chain gathered through the consultation period, including the need for education and training for producers and industry in implementing sheep and goat eID.

Training, education and support needs identified are included in the Business Case and will become an important part of the strategy to implement eID in sheep and goats in South Australia.

All training and support will build on the momentum of the PIRSA Red Meat and Wool Growth program, which has been supporting producer and industry adoption of eID for productivity gains and traceability on farm over the last two years.

Individual saleyards will require modifications to manage scanning of sheep and data collection and transfer. Saleyard operators and livestock agents have been consulted to understand the requirements of saleyards and agents to implement and use eID and what support will be needed to ensure sales maintain efficiency and can continue to run at the same pace.

Mandatory eID in sheep and goats is in place in Victoria and saleyards have successfully been fitted to include eID infrastructure which offers a lot of learnings for the South Australian design and fit out.

This video shows eID in sheep operating at Victorian saleyards:

The roles and legal responsibilities that currently exist regarding the movement of sheep and goats in the visual/mob-based system on the NLIS database will not change with eID.

When ordering and purchasing electronic identification tags they will be loaded onto the NLIS database by the manufacturer.

Producers will only be required to upload eID information to the NLIS database if they buy animals directly from another producer (P2P movement). This includes stock purchased via Auctions Plus or other online platforms (noting stock agents may help with but are not responsible for recording P2P movements on the NLIS database).

Movements of sheep and goats with eID through saleyards or to abattoirs are the responsibility of the saleyard and abattoir.

Stock purchased from on-farm auctions (i.e., ram or breeder sales) will be scanned and uploaded by the agent conducting the sale.

The Commonwealth Government has announced $26 million to upgrade the NLIS database.

The consultation process collected feedback on various areas, including rangeland goats.

The consultation process collected feedback from all areas of the supply chain including sheep going direct from property of birth to abattoir. This feedback has been provided to the state government who will decide on whether sheep going directly to slaughter from place of birth should be exempt from mandatory eID tagging.

The Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC) is the peak body representing retailers, processors and small good manufacturers across the country.

In December 2022, AMIC released its position on sheep and managed goat eID. The position is as follows:

  • AMIC encourages all states to adopt eID as quickly as possible, with mandatory tagging of all lambs born after 1 January 2025 a minimum requirement.
  • During the adjustment period, AMIC will support states that may choose to phase-in eID for sheep born before 1 Jan 2025 and already tagged with a visual mob-based tag, but all sheep movements must be identified with an eID by 1 January 2027.
  • All sheep not already tagged on 1 January 2025, no matter what age, must be tagged with an eID when next transferred. To enforce this, AMIC recommends NLIS-approved visual tags be withdrawn from sale and only eID tags be available on the market from 1 January 2025.

Click here for more information.

At this point in time, we do not foresee any exemptions for small flocks or pet sheep. These animals are an important contributor to the national flock and will need to be traceable in the event of an emergency animal disease outbreak.

The minimum requirement will be to change the visual tag to an electronic tag, and we are working out solutions for equipment sharing or similar to support any situations where a sheep needs to be moved on the NLIS database without it being a big cost impost on smaller holdings.

The Agriculture Ministers have announced their intention to implement harmonised tagging requirements for all managed farmed sheep and goats using individual electronic identification, working towards a 1 January 2025 implementation.

Each State with sheep and goat industries are developing implementation plans which include timelines for tagging and any exemptions.

Victoria already have mandatory eID for sheep and farmed goats and the requirements are:

  • All sheep and goats must be identified with an electronic NLIS tag before they leave their property of birth
  • Electronic NLIS tagging of harvested rangeland (feral) goats going directly to an abattoir for immediate slaughter are exempt from mandatory tagging

Western Australia have recently announced their implementation plan, which includes:

  • State government funding of $3.4 million to support the introduction of mandatory eID for sheep and goats in Western Australia
  • The funding will include new scanning infrastructure at saleyards and other key livestock congregation points and an electronic tag subsidy for producers
  • As of 28 March 2023, discounted electronic identification ear tags are now available for your 2023 lamb and kid drop, as part of a Western Australian pilot program to prepare for the adoption of the mandatory eID for the national livestock identification system (NLIS) in January 2025.
  • In May 2023, the Western Australian Government announced 22.2 million investment to support the transition to mandatory eID roll-out.
  • Click here for more WA information.

NSW have also released their implementation plan, which includes:

  • Mandatory processor scanning from 30 June 2024
  • Mandatory saleyard, depot and property to property scanning from 1 Jan 2025
  • Mandatory tagging of all sheep/farmed goats born after 1 Jan 2025
  • Mandatory tagging for all movements of sheep and farmed goats leaving property from 1 January 2027
  • Click here for more NSW information.

Like South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania are yet to announce the details of their implementation plans.

eID tags and equipment

As with the current mob-based tags, sheep and goats can lose tags. eID tags can be replaced with either a breeder eID tag or post breeder eID tag when it has been identified that an animal is missing a tag.

There are currently two types of accredited eID tags for sheep, which are a one piece and two-piece tag.

Producers will need a tag applicator and electronic tags as a minimum requirement. Ongoing consultation will help determine what further equipment producers might need such as wand readers to implement eID in sheep and goats.

For a lot of producers there will be no additional equipment required apart from the provision of electronic tags.

For any producer who is purchasing livestock from another property (without a saleyard), then they will need at least a wand, and computer to support the NLIS database transfer.

Example 1

A producer has a commercial closed flock and only purchases rams through on-farm stud sales.

For this business, the minimum requirement will be to change visual tags to electronic tags as all transfers on the NLIS database will be completed for this producer by the ram sale convening agent, and the purchaser of all sold livestock.

Example 2

A producer who purchases sheep from a saleyard and from on property through Auctions Plus.

For the component purchased from the saleyard, the saleyard will complete NLIS transfer, and for the component purchased through Auctions Plus as the purchaser you will be required to scan livestock into the database, this could be as simple as using a wand for scanning and computer for uploading.

Electronic identification has been used as a management tool for commercial and stud flocks for several years, and the benefits have been documented through several different studies.

Significant opportunities exist to increase profitability by identifying the performance of individual animals within a flock enabling more informed decision making.

However, individual animal management is optional, and it will not be necessary for every business to purchase electronic identification enabled drafting equipment or weigh scales. This will be based on individual business preferences and capabilities.

There are consulting businesses that can support producers to make these changes and implement eID for management.