Sheep EID —Protecting Victoria's livestock industries

The detection of African Swine Fever (ASF) and Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) virus particles in animal products confiscated at airports and in the mail by Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources staff at Australia’s border earlier this year highlights the need for a strong animal traceability system.

More than 400 meat products were tested and ASF virus fragments were identified in 46. Two samples were also positive for FMD virus particles. AFS has recently spread across 25 provinces in China, 10 countries in Europe, Mongolia and some parts of Africa.

These detections do not change Australia’s FMD and ASF-free status. However, they serve as a timely reminder that there is a real and continuing risk of importing these significant diseases. FMD would have a devastating impact on Australia’s livestock industry.

Studies indicate a medium to large outbreak of FMD would cost the nation $50 billion over 10 years.

Several anthrax outbreaks in the Swan Hill region, over the last two years, further evidenced the need for rapid traceback of animals and the increased effectiveness of Victoria’s sheep EID system.

Studies indicate a medium to large outbreak of FMD would cost the nation $50 billion over 10 years.

Following detection of the infected animals in the latest incident, Agriculture Victoria staff were able to trace all property movements within a matter of hours, enabling quick tracing of where the sheep had moved to and allowing the required safeguards to be implemented in a timely manner.

Victoria is leading the way in biosecurity with the rollout of the sheep and goat electronic identification system to enhance traceability, from paddock to plate. A robust livestock traceability system helps protect not just the sheep industry from the impact of disease or food safety outbreaks, but all Australian livestock industries.

As the implementation of the electronic NLIS for sheep and goats in Victoria progresses, January saw the introduction of tagging requirements for sheep and goats brought from interstate into Victoria. Any sheep or eligible goat, born after 1 January 2019, must be tagged with an electronic NLIS sheep tag before leaving a Victorian property.

Since electronic tagging began in Victoria, more than 20 million tags have been purchased by Victorian producers. Victorian sheep processors have scanned 4.7 million electronically tagged sheep since 31 December 2017 and, at saleyards, more than 2.4 million sheep have been scanned and uploaded to the National Livestock Identification System since March 31 last year.

Agriculture Victoria’s tag subsidy continues through 2019, with the cheapest tags available from 55 cents.

As you prepare for the spring lamb selling season, where millions of sheep and lambs are expected to be yarded, make sure that all sheep born after 1 January 2017 in Victoria are electronically tagged with an electronic NLIS (Sheep) tag and that you know your NLIS responsibilities as a livestock producer.

Producers can be fined for failing to ensure animals are correctly tagged, failing to have a PIC or failing to have an accurate National Vendor Declaration. Agriculture Victoria has recently issued infringement notices for producers falling to tag livestock correctly before dispatch from their properties.

Tag application

Electronic NLIS (Sheep) breeder and post-breeder tags can be attached to either ear, although experience demonstrates that fewer tags are lost from those applied to the left ear during shearing.

Ensure you use the correct applicator that is compatible with the brand of tag you have ordered and read the tag supplier’s instructions before tagging your sheep and goats.

If an incorrect applicator is used, both tag retention and readability may be compromised. Check if your applicator is compatible or contact the manufacturer of the tag.

Detailed instructions are available on how to tag sheep.

Figure 1. How to correctly place Electronic NLIS (Sheep) tags to get the best retention rates.

Diagram showing where best to place tags.

P2P movements

Under the electronic NLIS (Sheep & Goats), Property-to-Property (P2P) movement recording on the NLIS database became mandatory on 31 March 2018. When animals are moved between properties with two different Property Identification Codes (PICs), known as a P2P movement, it is the responsibility of the buyer or receiver of the stock to notify the NLIS database of the stock movement by conducting a transfer on database.

The buyer or receiver may engage someone else to complete this transfer on the database on their behalf, including the person who dispatched the livestock or a stock agent. The database transfer must be completed within two days of the arrival or the sheep or goats.

When livestock are bought or sold through a saleyard, on-farm public auction or sold directly to an abattoir it is the responsibility of the person operating that business to notify the database.

PICs, electronic tags, P2P movement recording and the NLIS database are the pillars of our biosecurity system with livestock owners key to making it robust. Traceability underpins and protects your industry, play your part.

For more information, contact Agriculture Victoria, or read more about the National Livestock Identifcation System.

Page last updated: 02 Jul 2020