ATTITUDES towards the introduction of sheep and goat EID’s in Victoria had changed dramatically in the past 12 months, the state’s Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Charles Milne has said.
Dr Milne opened the annual Australian Livestock Saleyards Association (ALSA) conference, Melbourne, on behalf of Victoria’s Agriculture minister, Jaala Pulford.
“I was lucky enough to go to Sheepvention, in Hamilton, and there were no questions about the why at all,” Dr Milne said.
“It was all about the how and how do we implement it, to get the benefit from it.
“Attitudes have really changed and it’s got unstoppable momentum now.”
Twelve months ago, Dr Milne said there were “all sort of heated comments and observations, on ‘what where we doing in Victoria’?”
He said at Sheepvention, even South Australian producers were inquiring about the roll out of EID’s.
Dr Milne said there was similar resistance in Scotland, when EID’s were introduced there.
“Was it a popular move? No it wasn’t - even with foot and mouth in the background, it was real struggle,” he said.
“We have Soay sheep that are like rabbits, we have Jacobs that have got horns coming out in every direction, Scottish Blackface, which would kill you as soon as look at you.
“It was a real challenge.”
He said the other issue was the vast divergence in saleyards standards, across Scotland.
“We have temporary saleyards, in the far north, to cope with some of the sheep coming out of the Highlands.’
He said one, in particular, was “hell on earth”, when it was wet and windy.
“It’s a very basic structure of a few wooden pens, out in the middle of nowhere.
“That puts through tens of thousands of sheep a year and electronic tagging works there.
“So the system can be robust, for a whole range of circumstances.”
The Victorian trials were very important, to work out how to implement the best system, “in the real world.”
“The trials have shown scanning sheep doesn’t impact on throughput – the scanners will allow the sheep to go through, just as quickly as they would normally go through,” he said.
Eight million tags had now been sold.
“That’s a fantastic show, and we will continue to sell them.”
He said the value of electronic tracing was again shown, earlier this year, when anthrax was discovered in sheep, in the Swan Hill region.
“It was on five premises in Swan Hill; one moved three consignments of sheep through the local saleyards, before we managed to put it under restrictions.
“It took us over three days, over the weekend, just to track those consignments, and even then we got two of those consignments mixed up.”
That was in contrast to the export of 321 dairy heifers to Japan, which were subsequently found to have Bovine Johnes Diseases (BJD).
‘We were asked to trace those animals back through all the premises they had been during their lifetime - that was over 600 premises, it took us only an hour to do that, which is what electronic tracking shows,” Dr Milne said.
“Could we have done a similar thing with sheep? Swan Hill tells us we couldn’t.”
With a March 31, 2018, deadline for saleyards scanners, software and hardware upgrades were happening all the time.
“It’s a bit like a cart and horse situation; until there is investment in the system the suppliers aren’t going to invest huge amounts of money,” he said.
“Now we are up and running, now we are seeing the investment.”