Mandatory EID – Victoria

The Victorian Government is forging ahead with mandating Electronic identification (eID) in sheep.  Is it a good thing, bad thing, will it affect you?  We will discuss these in more detail but generally, from an industry and productivity point of view, eID of sheep will bring about positive change to the industry and its stakeholders.

A lot of discussion is being focussed around how the big saleyards are possibly going to scan all those sheep coming through the yards on the big days in Spring.  Fortunately, Australia has the brightest and most experienced minds when it comes to scanning animals and they are not daunted by the challenge.  It’s a challenge involving logistics, adult education and technology and can be resolved.

When NLIS for cattle was introduced, Sapien Technology wrote saleyard software that was specifically designed to create efficiencies and advantages in the management and handling of cattle that was only possible because of NLIS.   We have also used electronic identification of animals to bring about positive change in other areas including work in monitoring the Bobby Calf supply chain. Change can create new opportunities.

Processing plants are also going to face some challenges in trying to scan the tags as animals are processed.  However, as procedures are optimised, hook tracking systems will enable carcase weight and fat depth to be matched to the identity of the animal.  This information, when combined by the producer with their on farm data, will provide invaluable feedback on whether their breeding objectives are being realised and create more opportunities to meet specific market requirements.

The biggest challenge for producers is in discovering how it can work in their business.  Every producer has their own unique set of circumstances, based on genetics, soil types, climate, infrastructure, skills and capability.  Individually identified animals can be used to create opportunity – just how it does for a given business will require the producer to select equipment and software to match specific situations and goals.  There is no one size fits all answer, but in saying that it’s not as complicated as some people think. Do your research and ask around, the information is out there.

Overall this is an exciting time, it is not without challenges to overcome but some of the obvious  benefits will be

  1. Secure markets An even more robust traceability system will enable our exporters to meet customer expectations in terms of the quality of product that we sell. It is another example of how Australia can lift our products out of the realms of low value commodities and into the realm of high value niche product.
  2. Genetic gain Being able to provide feedback on carcase conformation at an individual level will drive massive genetic improvement.  Getting better, more accurate feedback on the products we produce will inevitably lead to positive change.  Compliance rates will start to lift.  Sapien are involved with the Co-operative Research Centre for Sheep and there is a tremendous amount of R&D work on being able to better measure carcase quality in their Quality based sheep meat value chains programme and the MLA’s bold move to install objective measurement equipment in all plants will enable breeding decisions based on objective carcase yield data feedback from the processing plants.
  3. On Farm productivity Individual identification of sheep enables producers to identify individuals in their flock that are making them money or being run at a loss.  Be it Fertility, Growth or Fleece values, eID will enable individual performance assessment.  Keep the winners and cull the losers, monitor the variation in your flock and make informed decisions.

With 14 years of dealing with individual animal management, our experience, and that of our clients,  clearly demonstrate that despite the challenges, eID in sheep will set up the industry to compete and drive productivity improvements at every level.


Further reading:

MLA to install objective measurement across industry

Sheep CRC

Dairy Australia – Calf management across the supply chain