Victoria leading the flock in biosecurity reform

Victoria is strengthening its ability to control disease to underpin lucrative local and export markets by stepping up sheep traceability.

This initiative will also drive innovation and productivity gains. The state is the first in Australia to introduce a game-changing electronic sheep tagging system to protect its livestock exports worth $6.7 billion annually and its sheep meat and wool industries, which pump more than $2.5 billion into the local economy each year.

Faster tracking capabilities of electronic scanning ensure that animals of interest are quickly and reliably identified in the event of a disease such as anthrax or a food safety emergency. An outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) for example, could cost more than $50 billion nationally, impacting rural and regional communities and damaging our reputation internationally.

Electronic tracking is already mandatory in parts of the European Union in light of the 2001 outbreak of FMD in the United Kingdom, which triggered a long-time worldwide ban on livestock exports; the lack of an adequate tracking system exacerbated the impact on the industry.

Implementation of electronic tracking all along the Victorian supply chain gives trading partners increased confidence in the safety and origin of local products, protecting and enhancing access to these markets and reinforcing Victoria’s reputation for quality.

All sheep born in Victoria after 1 January 2017 must be tagged with an approved electronic NLIS (sheep) tag before they leave the property of birth. All sheep in the state will be electronically tagged by 1 January 2022.

Electronic tagging in cattle has been mandatory for over a decade and along with the traceability benefits, the storage of individual animal data is helping producers fine-tune their production systems.

Case Study: Benefits of electronic identification

In mid-2016, a suspected case of Bovine Johne’s Disease was found in a consignment of 321 cattle coming from Australia destined for Japan, resulting in suspension of the Japanese live export market. Using electronic tagging, the life histories of the 321 cattle were confirmed within an hour, involving livestock movements to more than 120 properties over five states.