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MacLoran Farm

Govt spend needed to rev up sheep eID

With the successful return of the Adelaide 500 last week, it is useful to reflect on the ‘race’ the state’s livestock industries are in. Being recognised as the best in the world at something requires considerable focus and effort. Maintaining ‘pole position’ is often as challenging as the climb to the top because there is only daylight in front of you, everyone behind you benefits from the trail you have blazed, and they are focused on catching you.

Consumers are becoming more discerning and are demanding more information about what they eat and wear, particularly products derived from animal agriculture. Naturally the higher price they pay for something the more discerning they are.

We are blessed with country comparative advantages, including our enviable disease-free status, which provide market access. Coupled with years of significant industry levy investment (marketing levies are not matched by government), red meat is exported to up to 100 countries each year including some of the most financially rewarding and discerning markets.

However, globalisation has made the world a smaller and more connected place, countries continue to move up the Human Development Index and the climate continues to change. All this leads to more aware, socially conscious and discerning consumers. Coupled with a more unstable geopolitical environment, maintaining pole position is becoming harder.

South Australia’s livestock industries operate in a high-cost economy. Sustainable profitability relies on good prices for our livestock and livestock products. Where red meat is concerned, processors need to extract whole carcase value to underpin good prices, which means having good access to the right markets.

Mandatory individual identification (eID) in sheep and goats has been a discussion between industry and government for some time. Following notification of LSD and FMD in Indonesia, the discussion intensified as our ability to identify, trace and control an emergency animal disease outbreak will determine how well we recover from such an event.

In July 2022, Australia’s state and federal agriculture ministers agreed to work collaboratively with industry to introduce a national mandatory eID system for sheep and goats. In September, agriculture ministers set a transition date of 1 January 2025. Ministers reiterated their position on this at their most recent meeting on 7 December.

For the sheep and goat industries, eID is now the ‘race within the race’.

Having dropped the starters flag on this, federal and state governments have a responsibility for making sure the race to sheep and goat eID is successful. There are obviously benefits for industry too, so we will need to play our part. But as the ‘race coordinators’ governments should expect their hands will need to go deep into their pockets. At a state level the success of the Adelaide 500 serves as a good example. While the final cost hasn’t been made public yet, I am sure it has a dollar figure that matches the success of the event.

By Travis Tobin

Published: 29 December 2022