UNMARKED cattle are becoming a problem for some WA saleyards, following misinformation that the new National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) tagging requirement had replaced the need for earmarking.
The confusion is a result of information printed in the Agriculture Department's original NLIS booklet, which states the minimum requirement to sell cattle at a saleyard is an NLIS eartag.
Producers who do not earmark their cattle before leaving the cattle's property of origin are being turned away from the saleyards due to the vague requirements in what producers colloquially term "the bloody green book".
Midland Scales Joint Venture manager Lynton Batt said that out of an average of 80 consignments, six to eight consignments of cattle were being turned away from the Midland saleyard every Sunday because they were unmarked.
He said this was causing considerable hold-ups in the receival process as trucks were being forced to wait longer to unload cattle.
The Stock Identification and Movement Act states all cattle must be branded or earmarked before being removed from their property.
The Act also states cattle from the South-West land division must be marked before six months of age, while pastoral cattle must be marked before 18 months of age.
It is an offence under the Act to possess stock not legally identified and a breach could result in a fine of up to $3000.
Mr Batt said it was uncommon for cattle to arrive without earmarks prior to the introduction of NLIS tagging requirements.
The third edition of the Agriculture Department's NLIS Frequently Asked Questions handbook released in May, 2005, has corrected the information and notifies producers earmarks continue to be mandatory identifiers under the Stock Identification and Movement Act unless the industry wishes to change.
This amendment has not addressed the problem of producers – who still adhere to the original book – having cattle turned away each week due to saleyards being legally unable to accept unmarked cattle.
Producers are being laden with extra freight costs and missing marketing options, as cattle are not being received and therefore missing a producer's preferred saleyard date.
"This problem is happening a lot and disadvantaging producers," Mr Batt said.
"The message has not gone out that earmarking is still required.
"218 unmarked cattle arrived at Midland two weeks ago in one consignment; we were unable to receive 13 clients."
Mr Batt said the police stock squad regularly visited the Midland Saleyard and could charge people responsible for the movement of unmarked cattle with considerable fines if caught.
Elders South-West Livestock manager Rusty Miller said southern saleyards had a minor problem with unmarked cattle.
"A lot of producers are thinking NLIS has done away with earmarks – this is not the case, by law you are not allowed to transport cattle without an earmark," Mr Miller said.
"Producers need to take a little more care to avoid this problem."
Mr Miller said cattle would be turned away if they arrived at saleyards without an earmark.