Advances in National Sheep Electronic Identification System Welcomed

Lambs with electronic EID or RFID tags.

AUSTRALIA is moving closer to implementing a national electronic identification system for sheep and goats, albeit more than 10 years after government and industry reports recommended the move.

A spokesman for NSW Agriculture Minister Dugald Saunders told Sheep Central that the National Biosecurity Committee had sent documents to senior agriculture officials and ministers “for review and decision for national implementation of sheep EID”.

Sheep Central recently asked the Minister if the NSW Government’s recent $169 million biosecurity funding commitment to modernize the state’s connection to the National Livestock Identification System was linked to SAFEMEAT’s recommendations to improve livestock biosecurity and traceability results.

Mr Saunders’ spokesman said the February 2020 SAFEMEAT report commissioned by the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment’s National Biosafety Committee made five recommendations to improve Australia’s traceability system livestock and remained under study.

“NSW, under the direction of the Veterinary Director, was leading the NBC task force to review options in response to recommendations 1 and 3 of the SAFEMEAT report.

“This work has been finalized and is with NBC for decision and progress,” the spokesperson said.

“Documents are currently progressing to senior agriculture officials and ministers of agriculture for review and decision for national sheep EID implementation.

“NSW, like other states and territories, continues to watch with interest the progress of Victoria’s implementation to ensure that any similar work potentially done in NSW benefits producers.”

Although Mr Saunders’ office and NBC National Livestock Traceability Improvement (NLTE) Task Force Chair and NSW CVO Dr Sarah Britton did not further clarify the status of the recent NBC deliberations, the development of the SAFEMEAT recommendations has been well received.

Industry sources also told Sheep Central that NBC would be preparing documents for AGSOC containing recommendations supporting a transition to a national electronic identification system for sheep and goats, with AGSOC expected to forward its recommendations to AGMIN for action.

AGSOC is the Senior Agriculture Officials Committee made up of all Heads of Department and Chief Executives of Australian State and Territory Agencies and the New Zealand Government, responsible for primary industries policy matters. AGMIN or AMM is the principal forum for Australian ministers of agriculture and primary industries to collaborate on priority issues of national importance.

A DAWE spokesperson said the next AGSOC is scheduled for Thursday, July 21, 2022. At this time, no date is scheduled for AGMIN.

“A proposal to implement national individual electronic identification for all sheep and goats has not yet been provided to AGSOC.”

The NBC has previously supported the implementation of the national EID system for sheep and goats in principle and has recently had the costs reviewed by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Science. Dr Britton also said the ABARES report “will give a national indication, but will still require each state to do its own calculations, which most have now”.

SAFEMEAT and Sheep Producers Australia welcome progress

Independent chair of the SAFEMEAT Advisory Group, Andrew Henderson, said it was extremely encouraging that governments’ consideration of SAFEMEAT’s recommendations to improve livestock traceability is progressing through the required internal government processes with increased priority, especially in light of the rapidly increasing threat level posed by Lumpy Skin and Foot and Mouth Disease.

“The work that Dr Britton has put into this process, along with his colleagues, has been greatly appreciated by all members of SAFEMEAT.

“We strongly believe that advancing all of the recommendations in the SAFEMEAT 2020 report is essential to ensuring the preparedness and response capacity of the livestock sector and we wish to continue to work closely with Commonwealth jurisdictions and government from here as they consider the next steps. ”

Sheep Producers Australia chief executive Bonnie Skinner said the body was awaiting the results of NBC’s recommendations for a national electronic identification system for sheep and the next opportunity for industry engagement in the process of national reform.

“SPA is committed to advancing discussions for the implementation and funding of a national EID system for the sheep industry in conjunction with the broader NLIS reform measures proposed by SAFEMEAT.

“The cost of transitioning from crowd-based identification to individual identification, and the associated system changes required to support this transition, is the most important step in the evolution to a more robust system. “, she said.

“A key principle underlying the evolution of a traceability system must be the harmonization of traceability standards and centralization to create a truly national system.

“SPA recognizes that Australia’s multi-billion dollar meat and livestock industries are under constant biosecurity threat from diseases such as foot and mouth disease,” said Ms Skinner.

“SPA has always taken these threats very seriously and has worked deliberately and proactively to continuously improve Australia’s livestock traceability capability with the wider red meat sector.”

The first and third SAFEMEAT recommendations are CNB priorities

SAFEMEAT’s first recommendation was the creation of a regulatory or statutory body responsible for managing the traceability of Australian livestock, and the third concerned the creation of an equitable funding arrangement for the establishment and ongoing maintenance of a national EID system.

Other SAFEMEAT recommendations as presented to the CNB in ​​March 2020 included investing in a database capable of managing all livestock species susceptible to FMD, making individual digital/electronic identification of livestock mandatory and that a consultation regulatory impact statement be conducted to fully assess the impact of the five recommendations to provide a fully costed decision document to AGMIN.

When the SAFEMEAT recommendations were made to the CNB in ​​2020, a phased deployment of improved traceability infrastructure over five years was recommended, with completion in 2025.

More than 10 years to get here and still no precise timetable

A Sheep Central compilation of available industry reports shows how long successive governments and the industry have known about the need to improve the nation’s livestock traceability systems.

Exercise Minotaur conducted in September 2002 in direct response to the FMD outbreak in the UK identified livestock traceability in Australia as an area requiring improvement.

Exercise Sheepcatcher I in 2007 and Sheepcatcher II in 2016 both demonstrated that Australia’s crowd-based visual tagging system for sheep failed to meet the National Livestock Traceability Performance Standards (NLTPS).

In 2011, former senior civil servant Ken Matthews’ report to the then Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry – ‘A review of Australia’s preparedness for the threat of foot-and-mouth disease‘ – recommended that a way be found to address the weaknesses of the NLIS (sheep and goats) with recommendations to government ‘within 12 months’.

The review team found that the sheep industry’s current crowd-based and largely non-electronic systems are unable to meet nationally agreed standards for livestock traceability.

“This is of particular concern given the role that subclinically infected sheep can play in spreading the disease across the country,” the report said.

The Center for International Economics CIE NLIS (Sheep and Goat) Business Plan – June 2010 documented the costs associated with manually inspecting visual tags and NVDs and correcting errors and omissions, as well as the possibility to switch to an electronic system.

A 2012 Primary Industries Ministerial Council task force report on the feasibility and costs associated with introducing an electronic NLIS system (sheep and goats) concluded that there are no “barriers insurmountable” to the implementation of an NLIS system (sheep and goats) based on electronic tags.

The introduction of an NLIS system (sheep and goats) based on electronic tags was also recommended in the review of livestock biosecurity in Victoria by the Office of the Auditor General of Victoria (VAGO), published in mid- 2015.

The OIE Performance of Australian Veterinary Services (OIE PVS) report, published in November 2015 and available on the DAWE website, recognized gaps in the NLIS system (sheep and goats) and recommended the introduction an improved traceability system.

Sheep Central has been briefed on the Center for International Economics (CIE) report: Improving Sheep and Goat Traceability – The 2010 NLIS (Sheep and Goat) Business Plan Update (CIE Report) prepared March 2020 on behalf of SAFEMEAT has not been released due to concerns about the potential impact on access to international markets. Other reports on the matter are not in the public domain.

Recent interest and support for the establishment of a national EID system for sheep and goats has been bolstered by the proximity of the recent outbreaks of foot and mouth disease and lumpy skin disease in Indonesia, and by the of growing awareness that Australia’s current mostly mob and visual ear tag-based system of identifying small stocks does not meet national standards and poses a biosecurity risk to farming-based sectors of the country.

A SAFEMEAT traceability assessment in March-July 2020 found NLIS visual tags for sheep to fall below national standards for traceability performance, with traceability of 70.08pc in 30 days, compared to 99.64pc for sheep with EID tags.

The National Traceability Performance Standards state that for all species of livestock susceptible to foot and mouth disease, within 24 hours of notification to the relevant chief veterinarian, it must be possible to determine the location(s) where a specified animal resided during the previous period. 30 days. Species susceptible to foot and mouth disease include cattle, sheep, goats and buffaloes, deer, pigs, camels and domestic camelids.

The traceability assessment involved sheep from sales yard lines sourced from Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia sent direct to slaughter, and sheep from Western Australia and Tasmania.

Victoria is the only state that has mandated EID for sheep and goats with support from the state’s state agricultural organization, the Victorian Farmers Federation. However, NSW Farmers, Queensland’s AgForce and the WA Pastoralists and Ranchers Association opposed the introduction of a mandatory national electronic identification system for sheep and goats.