Communique eight

Logo for National Horse Traceability Working Group

14 June 2022

The National Horse Traceability Working Group (Working Group) is a non-statutory committee constituted by the Agriculture Ministers’ Forum in September 2020.

The purpose of the Working Group is to provide advice on matters relating to the design and introduction of a traceability system for horses, donkeys and mules in Australia.

The Working Group was established following the release in mid-2021 of the Senate’s Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee’s report entitled The feasibility of a National Horse Traceability Register for all horses, which recommended that at its core, a National Horse Traceability System (NHTS) must support effective biosecurity.

The Working Group comprises representatives from Animal Health Australia, Australian Horse Industry Council, Equestrian Australia, Harness Racing Australia, Racing Australia, RSPCA and the state, territory and Commonwealth governments. The members of the Working Group have an excellent mix of knowledge relating to horse industries and communities, as well as livestock traceability principles and designs.

Agriculture Victoria is providing secretariate services to this Working Group and both the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment and the Office of Racing Victoria have provided funding to support this important work.

The Working Group has recently commissioned work to quantify the costs of establishing a base level NHTS employing state/territory Property Identification Code (PIC) registers and industry-maintained movement records, as well as a more advanced microchip-based system supported by a national horse ownership and movement database.

The Working Group will in the near future consider feedback obtained in response to a recently released public consultation survey in which horse owners, businesses and stakeholder organisations were invited to comment on proposed business rules for a traceability system based on the use of PIC registers and industry-maintained movement records.  As part of this survey, the views of respondents were also sought on a more advanced microchip-based system.

When this work is completed, the Working Group will consider further ways in which a national horse traceability system could be used to deliver broader benefits to stakeholders. This is in line with Recommendation 6 in the Senate Committee’s report which proposed that “the NHTS be designed to enable additional features to be incorporated as it progresses, and to allow for the horse industry to take responsibility for and progress any future functionality amendments”.  Such functionality amendments could assist with improving animal welfare, emergency response management, rider safety and the integrity of trade in horses.

In relation to improving horse welfare, other activities are currently underway at a national level. The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) is working on the development of new ‘Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Livestock at Processing Establishments’. DAF is also leading a review of the suitability of the existing Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for the Land Transport of Livestock in relation to horses.

The Working Group must ensure the many drivers for why a traceability system is needed are considered in order to develop recommendations that are both feasible and functional for all involved in the horse industry. This complexity is reflected in the fact that even after the significant equine influenza outbreak in 2007 and 2008 Australia had, until now, not moved forward with progressing an agreed traceability system for all horses.

The Working Group’s recommendations in relation to the design of a NHTS are expected to be finalised in the coming months before being considered at the Agriculture Ministers Meeting.

For further information can be found on the Horse Traceability webpage or any enquiries can be directed to email horse.traceability@agriculture.vic.gov.au

Stuart McLean
Chair, National Horse Traceability Working Group

Page last updated: 14 Dec 2023