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Lack of local trials limiting eID uptake in SA

THE National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) is vital to ensure our cattle, sheep and goat industries maintain effective animal traceability, which is important to develop and maintain livestock markets.

While there is a push in some quarters to move to a mandatory electronic identification (eID) system for sheep, Livestock SA believes there is still work to do to convince producers of its benefits.

Recent eID tag trials have only been completed in Victoria and New South Wales. eID was mandated in Victoria in January 2017 and it is expected there will be a transition to all sheep being electronically tagged by January 2022.

Consideration needs to be given to extending trial work to include all States. Relevant data for SA needs to be available to producers before updating any policy and mandating the use of eID here.

SA currently uses a mob-based system for recording stock movement. This requires recording mob-based movement (MBM) onto or off a Property Identification Code (PIC) rather than recording the separate movement of individual animals.

Previous studies have indicated that the mob-based system will adequately provide the required level of traceability when completed correctly.

Faults within the mob-based system can occur when there is insufficient movement documentation, particularly the listing of all the secondary PICs on visual tags of stock in the consignment.

Incomplete records also result in a more labour-intensive system as verification needs to be completed along the entire supply chain to ensure that PICs which appear on stock in consignment are listed in movement documents.

The eID system which is based on individual animal identification using electronic ear tags addresses many of these error and labour issues and would replace visual tags.

This involves upgrading the existing visual system with labour-saving technology, involving an annual cost of eID tags for all sheep when leaving the property of birth.

Key benefits of this system include increased traceability, labour savings, improved animal management and decision making and increased animal health and welfare monitoring.

While Livestock SA notes the benefits of eID and supports producers using eID for management purposes, at this stage there is not a definitive case for uptake and we currently do not support mandating the use of the technology.

There are extensive costs and issues with the practicality of implementation which need to be considered before implementation in SA.

The Centre for International Economics’ ‘Improving traceability for sheep and goats’ report prepared for Sheep Producers Australia and SAFEMEAT found the major cost of eID is tags and the initial upfront investment in technology if eID readers are required.

Results from various surveys Livestock SA has completed show there is a long way to go to convince all producers of the benefits of eID for use on their property.

In the SA Producer Biosecurity Survey, 53 per cent of producers currently use electronic identification technology on their property.

Of those who are currently using eID, only 25 per cent said the technology helps with managing on-farm biosecurity.

Livestock SA will endeavour to stay up-to-date with the national agenda on this topic.

In the meantime, the industry should stick with existing systems until the technology behind eID has proved itself to be cost effective and can achieve superior compliance levels compared to the current system.

ANDREW CURTIS, Chief Executive Officer, Livestock SA

25 February 2021 Media Type: Column / Policy Area: Biosecurity /Sheep & wool /