Electronic tags spark change in Australian sheep sector

By Oscar Rousseau

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Livestock Beef Lamb

The current mob-based visual tag system is deemed unfit for purpose
The current mob-based visual tag system is deemed unfit for purpose
A five-year plan to ensure sheep and goats in Victoria, Australia, can be identified with an electronic tag has started the first phase of its transition to a modern traceability system.

Saleyards, abattoirs and knackeries started scanning electronic sheep and goat tags on Saturday 1 July, uploading the information to a central database as part of a new traceability system in Australia’s south-eastern state of Victoria.

Under the plan, animal data is uploaded to the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) database – a tracking site that uses electronic ear tags to monitor cattle, sheep and goats.

Electronic tags have been compulsory in Australia’s cattle industry for more than a decade and Agriculture Victoria claimed the benefits extended past traceability and could provide opportunities for producers to improve production systems.

Traceability-driven value

With the supply chain adapting to the new system, one company poised to capitalise on the newly launched regulation is Emydex, a company headquartered over 10,000 miles away in Dublin.
The Ireland-based business is hoping to supply a fully integrated system that links purchase appointments, deliveries, saleyard data, animal welfare and quality assurance with on-floor processing data to the industry. The company said it was “well positioned” to not only meet the new regulation, but add value to small-sized meat processors.

One business that already uses the system is Wodonga Abattoir, a Victoria-based cattle, sheep and goat slaughterhouse, processing 45m tonnes of red meat per year.

By integrating Emydex’s radio-frequency identification data capture solution into the processing and payment chain, Wodonga can gain full traceability and true individual carcass costing whilst complying with the new regulatory requirements,​” said Wodonga Abattoir’s occupational health & safety officer Rod Scarvell.

This gives us significant benefits and reduces manual data input by leveraging the inbuilt NLIS integration and sophisticated costing system that Emydex provides.​”

Current tag system fails to meet standards

With work under way in Victoria to start scanning electronic sheep and goat tags to fill the NLIS database, the next key transition date is 31 December 2017.

From New Year’s Eve, Victoria abattoirs must scan electronic sheep tags and record the animal as deceased.

From 31 March 2018, all electronically tagged sheep and goats must be scanned in saleyards with tag information and codes naming both the vendor and buyer of the livestock.

From 1 January 2022, all sheep and non-exempt goats will need to be identified with an electronic tag being moved from Victorian property.

The state is moving away from the current mob-based visual tag system, because it does not meet the National Traceability Performance Standards, according to the Victorian Auditor General’s Office review on livestock biosecurity.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences also ruled that enhancing the current mob-based system would be neither practical nor cost-effective for the industry.

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