Producers 'don’t want mandatory RFID’

16 Oct, 2012 01:00 AM

  • Open letter to industry decries need for sheep RFID
  • Cost, welfare issues among key concerns
  • Call for producers to lobby govt, farming organisations

    A GROUP of sheep and wool industry leaders and producers have united to voice their opposition to the push for mandatory electronic identification by what it says is a minority of industry stakeholders.

    They are calling on other producers to lobby state farming organisations and agricultural departments for the current mob-based movement system to remain and for use of radio frequency identification tags to be voluntary.

    They want producers to communicate the benefits and value of the current system as the most efficient, timely and cost-effective way to maintain full traceability in legislated timeframes.

    Key concerns with RFID included who would foot the $816 million bill to roll it out, plus the extra labour required in scanning; potential animal welfare issues because of increased movements, particularly between properties in drought times; and the unanswered questions around non-saleyard movements, such as private sales and competitive events.

    The concerns were outlined in an open letter – facilitated by two Elders livestock managers, Gary Tapscott and Chris Howie – to the industry this week from peak sheep industry bodies and the livestock producers who in total manage 2.5 million sheep.

    “Like the overwhelming majority of other sheep and wool producers around Australia, they have been watching with interest over the past 12 months with a push by a very narrow sector of the industry to attempt to justify the introduction of a mandatory RFID system on the back of a foot-and-mouth disease scare-driven campaign,” the letter said.

    The letter comes as the Victorian Government – whose Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh is a proponent of RFID – committed $550,000 to progress electronicID uptake, half of which is producer money from the State’s sheep industry fund.

    He said the money would help to support and train producers who were keen to use eID.

  • “Victoria needs an efficient identification and tracking system for sheep and goats to protect our livestock industries from the devastating economic consequences of a serious exotic disease such as foot and mouth disease,” he said.

    Mr Walsh said there was potential for the industry to electronically tag sheep in 2014 given there were “attractively-priced electronic tags” and saleyards were investigating ways to efficiently scan sheep.

    Fletcher International Exports’ Roger Fletcher weighed into the debate, saying electronic identification would mean huge extra expense and animal welfare risk.

    The family-owned company has annual processing capacity of up to 4.5 million sheep and runs about 100,000 sheep on properties in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia. It already has systems in place that, combined with current mob-based movement traceback, can track animals to their property of origin in minutes.

    “Wouldn’t our industry be in a safer and more economical position by putting this extra money and effort into resourcing ways to eliminate the risks from wild dogs and feral pigs, which both pose a greater risk to all those in the industry,” he said.

    “Eliminating these risks, especially wild dogs, would have the added bonus of significantly improved lambing survival rates, thus increasing producers profitability.”

    WoolProducers Australia president Geoff Power said the organisation opposed a mandatory RFID system because the industry’s feedback was that the mob-based movement system was more than adequate for traceback, in the “highly unlikely event of any type of disease outbreak”.

    Sheepmeat Council of Australia chief executive Ron Cullen called on all parts of the sheep industry to get behind the current system, and for the industry and government to work together to implement it nationally.

    “It can meet our traceability requirements and it can deliver on the recommendations in the Matthew’s report,” he said.

    Australian Livestock & Property Agents Association chief executive Andy Madigan said the traceability relied on the NLIS database, not the type of tag in the sheep’s ear and that in the event of a disease outbreak, agents would be available day or night to help.

    AuctionsPlus general manager Gary Dick said mandatory use of radio frequency identification tags could have significant impacts for the company which has grown its reputation as a best practice way of selling sheep in terms of animal welfare and livestock handling.

    He said the two million stock sold a year through AuctionsPlus were treated the same as private property to property sales, where the buyer was responsible for transferring stock on the industry database under the National Livestock Identification Scheme.

    “Under any mandatory RFID proposal, all these sheep would have to be scanned en route to the vendor, which would probably involve a detour to the nearest saleyard, unload the sheep, scan and then reload and continue the journey,” he said. “All this will greatly increase the risk of biosecurity, animal welfare and driver fatigue issues and penalise producers.”

    Elders national livestock operations manager Chris Howie said while the company supports all stud and commercial breeders who use electronic tags, it also strongly supported the current system for all commercial producers, large or small.

    Date: Newest first | Oldest first


    16/10/2012 6:57:43 AM

    Foot and mouth should it ever enter the country will never be controlled by a tag on sheep and cattle. There are millions of wild feral animals that can transmit disease and they don't wear any tag and most don't respect fences. Feral pigs, feral goats, feral camels, feral donkeys, feral horses, just to mention a couple!! Shouldn't someone just look at the MLA cattle NLIS data base and check its accuracy and where the animals are that are on this data base. No more needs to be said, voluntary yes, compusory NO.
    16/10/2012 7:37:28 AM

    Typical of the way things are these days - total over regulation. and complication. We have an excellent system in place now that works well. Why try and fix it if it isn't broken?
    16/10/2012 11:20:19 AM

    It seems that the “……minority of industry stakeholders…..” pushing for sheep RFID reside in Victoria and probably the same Victorian mob that bludgeoned cattle RFID through. Victoria can’t seem to get its head around the fact that it is a p…ant State that sees every other State as some sort of manageable infection. If they are so worried about this infection they should quarantine themselves with a bloody big fence, right up the middle of the Murray.
    16/10/2012 11:36:09 AM

    Give me one good reason why we need it. I have had no overseas customers demand it, just MLA rubbish, you poor farmers are paying all there wages and look what you get back, in the commercial world MLA is a bad investment as you dont get a return.
    16/10/2012 12:41:45 PM

    Yes Archibald you are dead right, in the unfortunate event of an outbreak of F and M, the cloven hoofed ferals will be safe from extermination whilst the rest of us are forced to kill livestock as a preventative measure. RFID is insanity.
    16/10/2012 2:10:48 PM

    A couple of points on this issue - due to the cost of these tags ($2 - $3) sheep producers will not tag their sheep at lamb marking as any deaths between lamb marking and sale will have the added loss of the tag also with low sheep prices the cost of the tag could amount to 10% to 20% of the value of the animal.
    16/10/2012 2:32:10 PM

    Given the size of most victorian farms they would come into hobby farm status, hobby farmer mentality.What would you expect?
    Pro Freedom
    16/10/2012 9:37:43 PM

    Good on the producers for standing up for themselves! RFID -- and any other concepts that the elitists deem vital -- should forever be voluntary.
    17/10/2012 5:20:04 AM

    I hope this time around if these absolute fools do get these tags through that we as producers stand together and refuse to use them not cave in like we did with cattle NLIS. We have to stand together on this, they cannot make us do it. I for one sold all my cattle because I couldn't make a go anymore because of the added costs like NLIS. If they try to bring it in for sheep it will kill the industry for ever. There isn't enough money in sheep to be able to afford to put these nonsense tags in them. This is a few trying to destroy ag for their own gain. I ask all producers to fight this
    John Niven
    17/10/2012 5:34:28 AM

    It is NOT going to happen.
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