Electronic ear tags are set to become mandatory across Australia’s 70.6 million-head sheep flock, with growing concern about biosecurity threats — including foot-and-mouth disease — highlighting the importance of traceability.
WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan on Thursday confirmed all State Governments had reached an agreement with the Federal Government to enforce the mandate.
Speaking at the WAFarmers Dairy Conference in Busselton, Ms MacTiernan said the “clear decision” was made during a July 20 meeting between all State agriculture ministers and Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt.
“(There is) an agreement across the board that we must move to electronic tagging of sheep,” she said.
“It’s been kicking around for five years (and) the argument has always been, I thought, quite strongly in favour of it.”
Electronic identification, or EID, is mandatory for all Australian cattle under the National Livestock Identification System.
However, Victoria is the only State to have introduced compulsory EID for sheep, with all other States and Territories still using a paper-based system.
Ms MacTiernan said there was not yet a clear timeline for rolling out the mandate, adding that it was “not something that’s going to happen in the next couple of months”.
She said she had asked the Federal Government for details of what a funding arrangement might look like, including contributions from Federal and State governments as well as industry.
“We’ve asked for that to be the subject of an urgent report back,” Ms MacTiernan said.
“It’s clearly understood that getting that funding mix right is going to be critical… A clear decision has been made by all jurisdictions now that this has to happen.”
The move comes after the Federal Government last week pledged $14m to boost frontline biosecurity and help stop the spread of FMD across Indonesia, which has been grappling with an outbreak since early May.
Since then FMD has been detected in at least 22 provinces across Indonesia, including Bali, with more than 230,000 cases reported.
“That potential for FMD has really shown us that we’ve got to move to electronic tagging of sheep,” Ms MacTiernan said.