Mandatory RFIDs potential disaster

At Corowa saleyards a few weeks ago, I was watching sheep run through the drafting race and wondered if Victorian sheep producers and wool growers had any clue of the disaster that was about to hit them. When every single one of those sheep must be individually tagged and every single saleyard must have a reader.

The Victorian Auditor General recently tabled a report in their parliament recommending the government ‘finalise plans’ to implement a new, mandatory electronic traceability system for sheep and goats in response to holes in that state’s biosecurity network. This was rightly interpreted by NSW Farmers’ Association as an announcement-by-stealth.

This proposal is about as useful as diff locks on a sand goanna. The Victorian report acknowledges these holes to be the result of “a decline in financial and staff resourcing” to the point where that the state has experienced a significant decline in livestock surveillance activities of 39 per cent between 2011-12 and 2014-15, in line with cuts to core front-line staff. Electronic tags won’t fix that.

NSW Farmers has been in close contact with Victorian Farmers Federation about this issue - the number one issue for our members. Last year we lobbied hard to secure a commitment from Minister Joyce and his NSW state counterpart. The NSW Government’s position was further cemented in an MOU signed between NSW Farmers and the Liberal and National parties stating support for the current National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) system.Our members have been working hard to achieve very high levels of compliance in NSW and are concerned that Victoria is proposing to break away from the national agreement to work within the current NLIS. One state going it alone weakens the whole system.

And it is not just sheep farmers who are worried. 

When I was out in the Western Division last week I was talking to our goat producing members. They are extremely fearful of losing their rangeland accreditation if they are forced to tag their goats. Even if it were safe to tag a wild goat, the goat industry (worth $241 million nationally in 2013/14) exports 90% of its product to the USA, where tagging – which constitutes husbandry – would jeopardise the rangeland status and effectively shut down the industry.

The application of a mandatory system will be far more complicated than it first appears – it depends on adequate telecommunications to read tags in fast moving animals in saleyards. We submit that mandating anything of this complexity in Victoria is just cost shifting to Victorian farmers and the costs could be astronomical and far reaching.


Published: The Land 10/9/2015 

Contact: Jaimie Lovell

Phone: 02 9478 1000

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