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The introduction of electronic NLIS (Sheep & Goats) in Victoria

Robert Suter, Agriculture Victoria, Attwood

Posted Flock & Herd September 2018


To date (March 2018) the transition to electronic NLIS (sheep & Goats) in Victoria has progressed very successfully, with the timeline targets all being met. This is largely down to four factors: the work behind the scenes over the previous 10-15 years, high levels of interaction with key stakeholders since the Victorian announcement, setting a challenging but achievable timeline, and the support of the Victorian Government's $17 million transition package.


ABARE's DRIS of 2014 said that of all of the states, Victoria was one of the states that was most in need to change from the MBM NLIS that was in place across Australia, to an electronic system, such as the one that works so successfully in Australia's cattle NLIS. In part, this is down to the between-flock trading that occurs in Victoria: around a third of all NVDs show that not all of the sheep being consigned were home bred.


On August 24, 2016 Minister Pulford announced the transition to EID for Victorian sheep and goats, with the first lambs and kids to be compulsorily tagged to be the 2017 drop. A period of public consultation followed on the transition package and the standards (or business rules), which was finalised in November 2016. All parts of the supply chain were supported, with the key sectors (producers - via subsidised tags, saleyards and abattoirs) receiving the lion's share.

Electronic NLIS (Sheep and Goats) is an enhancement of Australia's NLIS (Sheep and Goats): all sheep transactions must be accompanied by a movement document (e.g. an NVD) listing all of the PICs on the ear-tags of the consignment, and all sheep (or goats) in the consignment must have an NLIS approved ear-tag.


'Cost-neutral' EID tags were provided to producers at the subsidised price of 35c for the cheapest, and producers could co-invest in EID technology for the benefit of their businesses. A competitive tender process to supply electronic NLIS (Sheep) tags helped keep prices competitive. For both saleyards (22 in Victoria) and abattoirs (23 in total) the transition package came in two phases,e.g. for saleyards for both design of the system, and then for purchase and installation.

Agriculture Victoria also provided significant training and support right across the industry sectors. The tag room managed the sale of almost 10.5 million tags in 2017, with about 70% of them purchased through the online portal. For 2018 the price for tags has been set from 45c; the significant increase in sales and competition for tags has seen one company advise that they will be selling tags commercially for 44c.


All of Victoria's abattoirs met the timeline target of scanning and uploading EID tags from 31 Dec 2017. Testing conducted this month has shown that all are achieving 98% scanning rates. Likewise, all of the state's saleyards are on track to meet the March 31, 2018 target of scanning and uploading EID tags.

These achievements haven't been without their hitches, but all have been overcome. For example, Ballarat saleyards, the state's largest, commenced voluntarily hand scanning tags in August 2017, which helped identify improvements needed to the NLIS database. Some abattoirs had issues with electronic noise interfering with scanners, so new technology was developed with support from the transition package. New scanners were devised to deal with scanning lambs in side-by-side races at saleyards; and wireless synchronisation systems devised. There are now four software packages available for saleyards, including one that has been designed for agents, not from the perspective of the saleyards.


Further key time points along the transition are:


The Victorian industry have been the guinea pigs in this transition, but have paved the way for all of Australia, investing in new equipment and software and demonstrating that it can be done. Interstate stakeholders are welcome to visit and see first-hand how it has been achieved. The next key time point will be when the next tag tender is called for, which is scheduled for March 2020. What price tags if other states came on board?


For more information, visit agriculture.vic.gov.au/sheepEID


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