LEARNING FROM OTHERS..."No tag will ever control or prevent disease"
A warning to US Producers from Brad Bellinger of the Australian Beef Association:
Where do I start.The Australian Animal ID system is an absolute disaster. You must do anything you can to stop it becoming law in your country.
We have been fighting the National Livestock Identification System or NLIS as it is known down here for three years. We have had a fierce battle against our official farmer's organisations and governments that have forced this upon us undemocratically.
Anyone who tells you that the Australian system is working well is lying or believing the propaganda that is being fed to them...
Lobby hard and best of luck.
Regards, Brad Bellinger
Vice Chairman Australian Beef Association
Do not let the USDA do to you in the US what our equivelant has done to destroy farms here in Germany. FIGHT back. If necessary, revolt! Comment Anders — July 31, 2006 @ 10:46 am nonais.org
READ THESE TWO COMMENTS FROM ANIMAL OWNERS IN ENGLAND - THEY VERIFY WHAT WE'VE BEEN TELLING PEOPLE...THAT THE ANIMAL ID IS *DESIGNED* TO CAUSE INDEPENDENT ANIMAL OWNERS TO NO LONGER AFFORD TO BE ABLE TO KEEP THEIR ANIMALS. IT'S ALREADY HAPPENING IN THE UK, AUSTRALIA, GERMANY, SWITZERLAND, ETC. DON'T LET THIS HAPPEN IN AMERICA!
I think it was the early nineties that they stopped us selling milk at the gate though I can't be precise on that one.
You must also remember that FMD and its resultant fallout also made a dramatic dent in the numbers of goats and their keepers, coupled with the loss of older goatkeepers through death or illness. We can't live forever and there a precious few younger people willing to take the reins. In my area alone we have had a lot of goatkeepers throw the towel in because they are sick and tired of it, most of whom were not five minute wonders but who had been doing it for a long time. Gone are the days when you could do what you liked.
You can't do this and you can't do that and, as you say, what was a fun hobby has now become a constant worry with all the damned paperwork, legislation, and lack of sales. Nobody wants goats anymore and, with five of my girls due to kid, I fear that the resultant offspring will most likely go for meat or be put down.
The expense for keeping these animals has gone OTT and my 'bill' before I can even consider selling is around the £50 but you can't even get £30 for kids anymore!
Our finances have become a tad dodgy since the beginning of this year (isn't it always the case?) and yet bills still have to be paid and I will have a big dental bill to pay for at some stage. My health is on the ding dong and I know I won't be able to keep this up for much longer (been at it for over thirty years) as I have to do my goats totally on my own and I just cannot cope anymore. I have a dicky fit every time (another) ruddy letter from DEFRA comes through the door, the house looks like a bombsite, I am perpetually tired and Geoff and I row over the fact that we haven't had a holiday in over twenty five years!
Yes, the commercial herds are doing well but the small operator just doesn't stand a chance as the expense of getting everything up to the EU's spec costs thousands. You would never see a return on your money despite the need for goat meat, and milk products in the UK. We breeders/hobbyists get hammered from every angle and are banging our heads against the preverbial brick wall. Miss Mostyn Owen, and other great breeders, must be spinning in their graves to see what has become of British Goatkeeping. The current DEFRA/EU lunacy will never end but the end is most definitely in sight for the British Goatkeeper. I won't even give it ten years! Sandra UK)
I am following the discussions about NAIS on the US lists with great interest. US goatkeepers are so much more vocal and outspoken than on this side of the pond. Here in the UK we are a few years ahead and have seen the effects of premises ID, herd ID, individual goat ID, movement restrictions, standstills, tagging, annual census forms and a mountain of licenses and red tape, etc, etc.
We have lost many goatkeepers (and many good bloodlines) since the point at which selling a few pints of milk at the gate came into force. Anybody remember exactly when that was by the way?
Many small herds could simply not afford to carry on without a tiny income to cover some of the feed costs. Goat Clubs are merging in an effort to keep going as numbers have declined so drastically. Many vets have no experience of disbudding or goat ailments as they no longer have any goat clients.
Yes all these changes are invasive and yes I think I would be right in saying most of us do not like them. But there has been nothing we could do to stop them. We would have had a better chance had we not been part of the EU which has changed not only our goatkeeping but much of our lifestyle.
Some of the info will no doubt help to move quickly in the event of another serious outbreak of disease and the additional testing our goats now have to undertake may result in us being declared scrapie-free (although 4 cases have been discovered recently in goats).
But a lot of the fun has gone. We are no longer free to get together with our goats for informal shows or outings without permission, CPH numbers and a load of form filling. Harness goat displays and outings have been badly hit and you can no longer "take your goats for a walk" without prior consent. Something some of us used to really enjoy. I used to take mine along the canal towpaths daily between 1982-1990. I wonder what they would have done with me had we still been afloat?
And who remembers Maggie Downing's lovely video "A Way Of Life" which included her out walking with her AN's? That way of life has gone forever. Commercial herds are thriving but for the hobby/small goatkeeper life will never be quite the same again. Christine [UK].
BEAR IN MIND AS YOU READ THIS THAT AUSTRALIA'S NLIS IS NO WHERE NEAR AS INTRUSIVE AND INCLUSIVE AS THE USDA'S NAIS!! AUSTRALIA ALSO HAS A MUCH SMALLER POPULATION THAN AMERICA WITH MOST OF THE PEOPLE CONCENTRATED ON THE TWO COASTS, UNLIKE IN THE U.S. WHERE WE HAVE TENS OF MILLIONS OF ANIMAL OWNERS SPREAD ALL OVER THE COUNTRY. AUSTRALIA IS ALSO NOT INCLUDING *EVERY* ANIMAL LIKE THE USDA IS TRYING TO DO. THEY ARE MAINLY DOING ONLY CATTLE AND SHEEP. AFTER FIVE YEARS OF THE NLIS, EVEN WITH THEIR MORE SIMPLIFIED SYSTEM AND MUCH SMALLER POPULATION, THEY ARE HAVING PROBLEM AFTER PROBLEM THAT IS DOING NOTHING BUT COSTING PRODUCERS MONEY AND DRIVING THEM OUT OF BUSINESS!
ONLY THE PROCESSORS/RETAILERS ARE MAKING BIG MONEY FROM THIS!!
WE ARE CONSTANTLY BEING TOLD BY THE USDA, ETC. THAT OTHER COUNTRIES SUCH AS JAPAN AND S. KOREA ARE DEMANDING THAT WE HAVE TRACEBACK (ANIMAL ID) SO THEY CAN IMPORT OUR BEEF, ETC. IN FACT, JAPAN HAS BEEN WILLING TO IMPORT ALL ALONG AS LONG AS WE WOULD TEST EVERY COW AT SLAUGHTER FOR BSE. AND THE ARTICLE BELOW POINTS OUT THAT COUNTRIES LIKE S. KOREA ARE NOT BEATING DOWN OUR DOORS, WANTING OUR BEEF! SO *WHY* ARE AMERICAN INDEPENDENT ANIMAL OWNERS BEING FORCED INTO THE NAIS?? AUSTRALIAN PRODUCERS ARE ALSO ANGRY AT U.S. IMPORTS INTO COUNTRIES LIKE JAPAN AND S. KOREA AS AUSTRALIA DEPENDS ON THEIR EXPORTS - THE U.S. DOES NOT, AS WE CONSUME WAY MORE THAN WE PRODUCE! WE ARE ALIENATING OUR ALLIES THROUGH STUNTS LIKE THIS!
General News S. Korean cattle breeders protest U.S. beef
Some 7,000 South Korean cattle farmers converged near the National Assembly in Seoul on Tuesday to protest the government's pending free-trade agreement with the United States.
South Korea passed the pact to parliament for approval on Sept. 7, the Agency France Presse reported.
The demonstrators, largely members of the Korea Beef Associations, shouted "Stop U.S. beef imports" as they denounced the government for potentially allowing unlimited imports of U.S. beef in an effort to ratify the pact.
Both the U.S. Congress and South Korea's National Assembly must sign off on the deal. U.S. lawmakers have said they will reject it unless Seoul fully reopens its market to U.S. beef.
Farmers and activists have periodically protested the free-trade accord during its 10-month negotiation process, but most opinion polls indicate a majority of South Koreans support it, according to AFP.
When cattle NLIS was first mooted, I was one of numerous producers who checked the experiences of other countries, and found the tremendous expenses and short comings far outweighed the benefits of ‘traceability’.
As a result, Bowen Branch of AgForce moved that all Qld producers and compulsory levy payers to be allowed their democratic right by voting whether they wanted compulsory NLIS.This resolution, and ‘democracy’, was denied by AgForce Cattle Board.
Anyone who has since spoken out about the shortcomings of NLIS has been branded as rednecks and rebels by many, from journalists to ministers.
AgForce policy advisor Sue Dillon’s (QCL 23.8.07) last paragraph on council mergers says it all. “AgForce will continue to raise its concerns to the highest levels that free speech and democracy are entrenched rights, which cannot be trampled on”.
John Cotter of AgForce (NQR 13.9.07), in his Northern Perspective Column on council mergers writes, “No layer of government has the right to trample our democratic right to be heard, so the onus is now on local councils and the residents within to hold these polls, record their vote and fly the flag for free speech.”
The Editorial (QCL 13.9.07) is a roundup of the Beattie Government's handling of a raft of rural issues.On council mergers, the editorial states, “This is not leadership. This was bullying and thuggery that ignored the fundamentals of democracy”.
The key word in all these articles is ‘democracy’.I congratulate the writers and AgForce on their commitment to free speech and democracy. However, considering how NLIS was forced onto the beef industry, this recent deep concern with democratic rights is blatantly inconsistent and hypocritical.Some of our industry leaders have completely lost their credibility.
After two years of enforced NLIS, most producers have had numerous ‘hands-on experiences’ with the scheme, and could now vote with even more clarity. To save expenses, the best way to vote would be for every producer to do a compulsory audit of their NLIS account, check the figures, and send copies of the results to the database, MLA, to the Minister, Rural Press and producer organizations.The results would speak for themselves.
I again call on all those listed above, whether compulsorily or voluntarily funded, to put in motion levy payers basic democratic rights, and test their vote on whether NLIS should be enforced on the industry.
Phone 07 4785 3490
Sally Office Manager Australian Beef Association 7/188 Margaret Street PO Box 812 TOOWOOMBA QLD 4350
ABA Chairman, Brad Bellinger said today, “Minister McGauran must urgently scrap NLIS before it breaks Australia’s cattle producers.”
The ABA called on the Minister Peter McGauran, to either pay the costs of NLIS, which are out of control, or scrap the whole system.The costs of NLIS to producers will exceed the Governments Drought relief figure and NLIS is not achieving any of its claimed objectives.
He said, “The just announced cost of $1.80 per lot NLIS/LPA handling charge by Elders is another nail in the NLIS coffin and of the producers who pay it.ABA wants the dishonestly introduced and hopelessly flawed program to be abandoned.”
He said, “Recommendations from COWCATCHER II exercise dwelt on the need for “commercial drivers” to try and make the scheme work. There are only disincentives in falling prices and escalating charges that the Minister has inflicted on cattle producers with the system and the increased MLA levy.
Mr Bellinger said “Other than Australia, the only other inter-property trace-back schemes are in Europe and are mostly paid for by Government. Government also subsidises these beef producers. The UK Auditor General’s Report on Livestock Tracking released on10/11/2003showed their farmer/Govt. cost ratio estimate figures. If transferred to Australia, it would give a total cost to Australia’s beef industry of $870 million per annum.The UK’s 2006 cost benefit analysis of any introduction of RFID to their sheep system, showed that the cost would increase”.
He added, “The FMD and Blue Tongue outbreaks in UK and the Equine Influenza outbreak in Australia have illustrated that trace-back schemes like NLIS are irrelevant. The US return to Japan and Korea with no NLIS, has shown that the claims that NLIS was needed for market access, were lies.”
Mr Bellinger explained, “Here in Australia the beef industry, like other primary production, is in big trouble in the deepening drought. Prices are down to pre - 1990 levels but the pre - 1990 cattlemen did not have the costs of NLIS and a $ 5 levy on every beast that they sold”.
Mr Bellinger continued, “We have been told by Cattle Council, MLA and numerous State Ministers that NLIS is essential to preserve access to our markets and to protect the Australian consumer. This is now found to be incorrect.”
“Why is the cattle producer carrying the entire cost?It is not borne by the Feedlotters, or the Processor, or the Consumer, or the Government - just the poor drought affected producer. If Government sees an advantage for Australia in maintaining the system, then let them fund it.”
“We again call on the Minister to either scrap NLIS, or have Government pay for it if they think it is all they claim it to be,” Mr Bellinger suggested
For more information please contact Brad Bellinger on 02 6725 4282 Mob 0428 765 421
IT IS not mandatory for ladies to wear earrings. That is a matter of choice. However, every sheep in the UK must be carrying at least one ear tag before moving off any farm.
Improved animal identification was one of the consequences of both the BSE and foot-and-mouth crises. All cattle now have an individual passport in a scheme which is administered by the British Cattle Movement Service in Whitehaven, Cumbria. There have been some minor problems, but the regime now works well and farmers have learnt to adapt.
However, sheep identification is much more problematical. Brussels originally sought to bring in individual identification for every sheep in Europe. That is just about workable in many continental countries where flocks are relatively small, but impossible in the UK where the vast majority of sheep are run in large numbers under extensive conditions. Accordingly, the UK was granted a derogation by Brussels which permitted farmers to use a batch system. In other words, the tags are not individually numbered, but instead carry the farm code.
Commission officials first granted the derogation in July 2005 and it was then extended last June with a stern warning that producers must strictly adhere to the rules. The derogation is due to expire on 30 June, 2007, but the UK has applied for a further extension while the industry has also requested that the introduction of electronic identification for all sheep should be delayed beyond its proposed date of 1 January, 2008. The appropriate technology is simply not yet reliable.
In late February a team of inspectors from the EU's food and veterinary office visited the UK to check that the current system was operating satisfactorily. Farms in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland were visited in addition to several livestock markets. The team from Brussels discovered a range of anomalies and some less than perfect paperwork. The majority of errors were unearthed in Northern Ireland. A collection centre where sheep were gathered before export to the Irish Republic was shut down with immediate effect. The one Scottish inspection was more than up to scratch.
The EU inspectors are compiling a report which will be presented to the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in London as well as to the devolved administrations. The fear is that the UK may be forced to move towards a double tagging regime unless there are clear signs that the current system is far more robust. Informed sources reckon that any decision to extend the existing derogation beyond the end of June will be very close.
Peter Morris, the chief executive of the National Sheep Association, commented: "It's in the balance. There is no doubt that the batch system can produce the necessary results in terms of traceability and disease control. The problem is that a very small minority are not complying with the rules and putting the whole industry at risk."
In Scotland it is estimated that having individual sheep ID could cost the industry upwards of £10 million each year. But Kelvin Pate, the chairman of the NFUS livestock committee, is hopeful that a satisfactory resolution can be achieved. He said: "We want a sheep traceability system that works. We are convinced that the batch approach is effective, but if there are areas where we can do better, then let's sit down round the table and discuss matters.
"However, I think it is clear that double tagging just can't work in the Scottish situation. Aside from the massive financial bill that it would entail, it would be impossible to operate on the ground, given the structure of the industry. I think common sense will prevail."
But, as ever, politics are likely to come into play. The French, in particular, are always keen to protect their domestic producers. Any moves to limit exports of UK lamb would be welcomed by farmers in France who currently enjoy the highest lamb prices in Europe.
This article: http://business.scotsman.com/agriculture.cfm?id=415872007
Opposition fears cattle ID scheme's impact on rodeo groups
The Queensland Opposition says financial strains on campdraft and rodeo committees will worsen when the National Livestock Identification Scheme (NLIS) amnesty ends.
From January 1, cattle used for rodeos or campdrafts will need to be fitted with NLIS tags.
Opposition primary industries' spokesman Mike Horan says organisers who cannot access normally tagged feedlot cattle will suffer.
"It's going to make it far harder for them to operate," he said.
"In the first instance it may be more difficult to source cattle from those properties that don't tag their cattle until they actually sell them off ... secondly, it's going to make it a little bit more difficult at the draft itself with the reading in and out, to hire people to do that or to buy equipment to do that."
The Minister for Primary Industries and Fisheries says the move will bring rodeo and campdrafting groups in line with agricultural show committees, who have been subject to the scheme since 2005.
Tim Mulherin says campdraft and rodeo committees were given a six-month exemption extension in July this year.
"The DPI [Department of Primary Industries] really needs to ensure that inspectors can rapidly and accurately trace animals that have been moved to all locations, including campdrafts," he said.
"When the cattle are sourced from a number of private properties, the biosecurity risk is magnified.
"There's about 200 campdrafts held each year across Queensland and if you start to multiply that out that really highlights the enormous risk."
ALFA’s Attack on ABA over Telling the Truth on NLIS
is Totally Unjustified
ABA Chairman, Brad Bellinger said today, “The assault on ABA in the Australian Feedlotters’ Journal by its President, Malcolm Foster was as despicable as he has seen.”
Brad explained, “Malcolm Foster is also the CEO of a Japanese multinational Feedlot Company here in Australia.It is interesting to note that Japan is a country that does not deliver on its own paddock to plate traceability system”.
Despite this, Mr Foster assaults ABA for saying, (what any practical producer or stock agent already knows,) that the Australian NLIS system is hopelessly flawed.
Mr Bellinger said “Most producers know NLIS is not as good as the old tail tag system, which was light years in front of Japan, USA and all the other countries that Mr Foster (and his compulsory levy funded mates) falsely claimed made it essential for Australia to go down the current NLIS lunacy”.
“Mr Foster was also Chairman of the compulsory/voluntary Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) scheme, which threatens producers for non-compliance. His Committee wave draconian business rules or contracts for producers to sign, and agree to, so that they may continue to trade. Most producers have signed without knowing what is involved, often times signed or agreed to under duress”, Mr Bellinger said.
In a recent address, Mr Foster also attacks the grain growers of Australia and their representative groups for their support of Government initiatives for a clean fuel industry through the production of ethanol, "Mr Foster is obviously not living on the same planet as the rest of us" Mr Bellinger said.
“Mr Foster was one of those who in 1997 influenced Minister Anderson to set up a closed five member club called the Red Meat Advisory Council (RMAC) with ALFA as a member.ALFA has about 250 members - whose larger members are the multinational processors. RMAC comprises a membership of five Peak Industry Councils: Cattle Council of Australia, Sheepmeat Council of Australia, Australian Lot Feeders' Association, Australian Livestock Exporters' Council and Australian Meat Industry Council with two Directors on the Council. The Goat Industry Council of Australia also maintains a link, but not as a member.
In stark contrast to RMAC, ABA represents the views of tens of thousands of Australian producers but ABA is not allowed onto the RMAC Board.
“Mr Foster’s RMAC is funded from producer levy reserves.It is disgraceful when the principal of a Japanese multinational is funded by Australian producers to attack Australian producers”, Mr Bellinger claimed.ENDS
For more information please contact Brad Bellinger on 0428 765 421
Or Linda Hewitt 07 4623 3707
For more background information go to our website www.austbeef.com.au
Sally Office Manager Australian Beef Association 7/188 Margaret Street PO Box 812 TOOWOOMBA QLD 4350
Australian Beef Producers Battle Drought and National Livestock Identification
By Shared by Darol Dickinson
October 23, 2006
Darol's note: Australian ranchers disliked their government's National Livestock Identification Scheme, but with the added cost of the Australian drought, the very thing that was supposed to create extra income is now eating all of the profits. However, the government offers no reversal. MLA cost are increasing, and ranchers can't stop it.
ABA Press release sent out 9/10/06 MLA SQUANDERS 200 MILLION DOLLARS, AS PRODUCERS BATTLE DROUGHT
ABA Vice Chairman Brad Bellinger said today, "Meat and Livestock Australia's marketing initiatives such as the National Livestock Identification Scheme, Livestock Production Assurance Audits (LPA) and the levy increase, have failed to deliver to producers".
Mr Bellinger continued, "Last week we saw the largest drop in the Eastern Young Cattle Index of 18.25c kg carcass weight in 3 years; this comes on top of the ABARE report, stating a halving of cattle producer incomes to $34,000, in 2005/06.
Mr Bellinger stated, "We are no strangers to drought, with the effects it has on cattle prices, however, this time we have the added costs of NLIS".
"Producers have been forced to spend over $175 million on tags and reading charges (plus costs on their time, labour and stress on cattle); whilst our U.S. counterparts, with no NLIS, are getting twice the prices we are receiving. The levy increase to $5 per head is taking well over $21m out of producer's pockets, whilst U.S. producers only pay $1 per head. The LPA Program had reportedly run over budget by $870,000 in early 2005, so [it] could have tripled that figure by now. This represents almost $200m unavailable to producers, to spend on fodder and agistment."
"As a result, for many, the only option is to sell, depressing prices further. The herd increase predicted by the Beef Industry Funding Steering Committee (in order to promote the levy increase) of 30 million cattle by 2009, is looking even more absurd, as breeders and replacement heifers are being forced onto the market, due to widespread drought".
Mr Bellinger is also critical of the MLA for wasting levy increase funds on the National Farmers Federation policies, such as repairing the divide between the city and bush. The million dollar allocation of producer levy funds to this scheme has everything to do with agricultural politics, and nothing to do with the marketing of red meat.
Mr Bellinger said, "The same could be stated with the MLA spending more of this levy money on specifically promoting the Australian Agricultural Company's 1824 brand in Japan". He said, "Why should our levy money be given to Australia's largest cattle producer, to increase their profits and expenditure, and not benefit all producers? Why is there no visible advertising of beef in the Australian market-place to assist the majority of cattle transaction levy-payers?"
Mr Bellinger confirmed, "The ABA boycott of moving motions at the MLA AGM in Adelaide is a vote of no confidence in the MLA. With 22% of the votes now controlled by processors, and further large voting blocks from corporate cattle companies enjoying joint venture relationships with the MLA, (like the AA Co.) the vast majority of Australia's producers are completely shut out from MLA policy making.
Letter sent to Editors of Rural Papers 9/10/06
It is now well documented that the MLA is prepared to go to any lengths to support NLIS, as their recent illegal behaviour in the NLIS poll exposed.
Last Thursday night, The 7.30 Report (ABC TV) revealed that John Wyld, head of the NLIS National Implementation Committee, is prepared to go on national television and lie about overseas markets requiring NLIS. When the Journalist from the ABC rang me to research the program, I stated that no country required NLIS for the importation of Australian beef, including Japan and Europe. He did his own research, and found this to be the case. This fact was correctly reported in the program; however, when Mr Wyld was interviewed, he contradicted what the Europeans told the 7.30 Report; - he has been caught out badly.
The Journalist also questioned Mr Wyld's connection to a company owned by members of his Family that profits from NLIS equipment sales, his reply was that it was nothing to do with him. This was an interesting statement, considering that Mr Wyld has lobbied Governments to subsidise NLIS scanners at taxpayers' expense, while his Family profits from those sales. I also question Mr Wyld as to when did he declare that he did not have a conflict of interest?
Without wishing to pre-empt the McGauran Audit of the NLIS data-base, recent statements and activities of those in the pro-NLIS camp, come as a timely warning, that the Audit should in no way to be compromised, and its integrity secured, it is obvious that there are elements within the beef industry that are capable of doing anything to cover up the NLIS mess.
AUSTRALIA'S largest saleyards, in Roma, Queensland, has scrapped $270,000 worth of National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) scanning equipment and reverted to reading cattle with hand-held wands.
Several other big yards across the eastern States are expected to follow suit in the coming weeks as operators' frustration with the technology builds.
Australian Livestock and Property Agents Association Queensland chairman, Noel Grant, Dalby, said this week that up to 12,000 cattle were now being scanned each sale using hand wands at the Roma saleyards.
Mr. Grant, who is also general manager of Grant Daniel and Long Livestock and Property, said the switch had been made to allow agents to complyl with NLIS.
"Roma had major problems as far as scanning (cattle) with the race readers," he said.
Mr. Grant said the wand readings - completed overnight before the sale - were accurate and didn't stress the cattle.
According to the ALPA newsletter, Roma spent $270,000 on the run-through scanners that have now been switched for the cheaper hand-held wands.
Mr. Grant said, in contrast, the Dalby saleyards by using hand-held readers had spent little on implementation and the system was working well.
Wagga Wagga Livestock Marketing Centre executive officer, John Knight, confirmed that other saleyards were heading down the same track as Roma.
I got a letter from another saleyard in Queensland asking if we wanted to buy their gear," he said.
USDA announced shortly after the BSE positive Canadian cow was discovered in Washington, that the U.S. would soon implement a national animal identification system. Like many academic theories and ideas, animal identification sounds great to the average person, consumer and producer alike. However, this good-sounding idea is soon to become a bureaucratic nightmare entangled in over-complicated schemes, vast trails of paper and work all leading back to the USDA and those who see this as an opportunity to develop a whole new profit center on the backs of producers while offering nothing to those bearing the brunt of work and expense.
As we enter into the Mandatory Animal ID arena, we find ourselves years behind others in tracking livestock. However there are some races where being fast results in paying the highest price for your efforts (this is also known as experience, not necessarily the good kind). Some races aren't worth winning and some maybe even not worth entering. Mandatory Animal ID may be just that, or at the very least, the kind of race to be looked at as a marathon, not a sprint.
Nobody has better knowledge of how a new concept may work than those who have lived through similar efforts. Perhaps we need to look to our friends down under, to the north and across the pond to get a feel for their experiences and what we might expect with the impending Mandatory Animal ID.
Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom have national animal identification programs in place that are proof positive that these programs, if not impossible to administer, are nearly impossible to administer well.
The very incident that propelled a national animal identification program to the forefront of the USDA agenda demonstrate that these programs do not necessarily work. The positive cow of Canadian origin was not disclosed until well after our trading partners banned all U.S. beef because the deafening silence from USDA on the matter implied she was of U.S. origin. USDA, to this day, has yet to fully explain why there was any delay in reporting her foreign origin even though she had a Canadian import ear tag. If USDA and Canadian officials can not identify an animal with a Canadian import tag as being of Canadian origin, or at the very least, not of U.S. origin within 1 day, there is a large problem involving lack of ability, credibility or perhaps even malfeasance on both their parts.
USDA seems bent on taking a simple common sense idea and turning it into anything but simple. For example, USDA recently announced the national animal identification program would be turned over to private industry to administer. In other words, the program that is to be designed to provide 48-hour traceback ability by the USDA in case of animal disease appearance will have a middleman unnecessarily injected between USDA and the data. USDA is the only entity/agency that is to have access yet they are suggesting adding another step between themselves and the data is a good idea. Rather than USDA being able to log into their computers and database to locate information on an animal, USDA will have to request that from a third party to get access to data that USDA owns. Another prime example of government inefficiencies and idiocy. In reality, giving the critical and confidential information to anybody other than the USDA only increases the potential problems in recalling the data and also increases the potential for this sensitive information to be accessible to unauthorized individuals or entities.
The United Kingdom's animal indentification program has been in place for several years and certainly provides a model of how not to operate. Cattle are tracked in the U.K. using a paper passport system that requires there to be a very involved paper trail for every movement of livestock. Subsidies are tied to this passport system as a way to force producers to comply. All cattle, dairy and beef, born in or imported into the U.K. since July 1996 must have a passport even if the animal is still on the property that was its birthplace. This passport must remain with the animal throughout its life. Producers must record all details relating to that animal including: ear-tag, date of birth, sex, breed, dam, the date and location of all movements on and off the property, and information regarding each death.
As of July 2005, Australia's National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) became mandatory. Identification is not new to Australia as they have had PIC (property identification codes) for over 60 years. Cattle movement has been monitored well for years using the PIC information along with waybills. However the mandatory NLIS system was designed to track individual movement of cattle, not just by a group or lot. Before the NLIS became mandatory, Australian producers already faced a considerable paper trail before moving cattle. With the NLIS, every movement and every sale became even more complicated and cumbersome.
The Australia NLIS requires cattle to be individually identified with either an ear tag with a microchip or with an ear tag and rumen bolus combination. The rumen bolus acts as an electronic tag that contains the identification information and is supposed to be able to be read with a scanner. These boluses can damage equipment at the slaughterhouse so some abattoirs will not process these cattle.
Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), which is an organization similar to U.S.' NCBA, is responsible for administering Australia's NLIS. MLA is supposed to represent producers, abattoirs, exporters, foodservice operators and retailers. Obviously, representing such a large diversity of meat industry participants is not an easy task and nearly impossible to promote what is best for each individual segment. MLA is also responsible for administeringAustralia's equivalent of the Beef Checkoff.
Many breeders in Australia are outraged at how a system that worked well for years (PIC's, waybills, declarations, brands and earmarks), could be down-graded to a system that has caused utter confusion and chaos to a country where many breeders are large in size and operate over a quite expansive land area. All of this in the name of progress.
According to the Australia Beef Association (ABA) Charirwoman Linda Hewitt, some breeders refer to the new rules for the NLIS as the "Rules of Chaos" because they lack feasibility and applicability to the country's management schemes. The rules that govern the NLIS are quite thick and complicated. To further compound confusion, different territories in Australia may have differing rules related to animal identification.
In general, livestock in Australia must be tagged with either a breeder device or a non-breeder device. The breeder device is a white tag with a microchip in the button portion of the tag. Cattle must be tagged with a breeder tag (device) before it leaves its birthplace. Once the cattle are moved to a different location, they are no longer eligible for the white breeder tag. The breeder tag contains the owner's PIC number along with an individual animal ID number.
If cattle are removed from the premise of their birth before being tagged with a breeder tag (white), they can never be tagged with the white breeder tag. Even if the cattle remain on property owned or leased by their owner/breeder they are not eligible for the white tag and would have to be tagged with an orange post-breeder tag. The post-breeder device (orange tag) signifies that the lifetime status of the animal is not known and thus the animal, more than likely, will not be worth as much as one with a white breeder tag. Just as many suspects may happen in the U.S., some aspects of the animal identification system in Australia are being used as reasons to discount some cattle. However, there is nothing to preclude packers from buying these highly discounted cattle and selling the beef at the same price as the beef from cattle with their lifetime status being known as the NLIS traceability stops at the boning room.
When an animal is sold through the saleyard without a tag or with non-functioning tags (the microchip cannot be read by a scanner) then it must be disclosed prior to the sale of the animals. Furthermore, a producer may not take their white breeder tags to the saleyard or anywhere else and apply them to the livestock. The tagging must be done at the premise of birth. Therefore, cattle producers in Australia are forced to have adequate working facilities at every property to restrain the cattle or their cattle will not have lifetime status qualifications.
To further complicate matters, if cattle are born on lease ground, then the PIC and animal ID are then linked to the land's owner rather than the cattle's owner.
When an animal is sold or moved it is the responsibility of the person receiving the livestock to report the movement to the NLIS database within seven days. Abattoirs (packers), on the other hand, are supposed to upload data to the database by the end of the following business day to remove the cattle from the database that were harvested. However, Australia producers are now realizing that the databases are not always getting updated as required resulting in the database containing countless numbers of cattle on inventory that have long been dead. This certainly makes it difficult to determine current inventories and numbers of cattle available to market.
Several members of the Australia Beef Association examined their cattle inventories on the NLIS website and found that the database was not even remotely correct. Some inventories included cattle that had been dead for quite some time and had cattle located in places not even utilized by the cattle's owners, etc.
According to Hewitt, less than 48 percent of the animals harvested are removed from the system. In fact, she said that the fourth largest abattoir in Australia does not even have a scanner to be able to scan the NLIS tags.
Just like the U.S., the Australia NLIS was developed with good intentions, but as Australian producers are discovering, it was implemented hastily before technology and cattle producers were capable of complying with the program.
Even simple aspects of the NLIS, such as unique non-duplicated numbers, are not working as a prominent herd sire shares the same NLIS number as a stud dog in another part of the country. Undoubtedly, this is problematic for producers.
Most of the NLIS data is transferred via the internet, and breeders have to set up an account through the MLA to access and input their data. For those breeders without computer or internet access, the time consuming paperwork is overwhelming. The MLA form for those breeders without computer access, limits cattle movements to twenty head at a time on a single sheet. Imagine shipping 500 head, filling out 25 forms and writing out 16 digits for each animal! Most obviously, it has become almost essential that all livestock producers have a computer with reliable internet access, which is certainly impossible in some parts of Australia.
Hewitt explained that the mandatory NLIS will cause several smaller breeders to leave the cattle business. She said the Australia Beef Association foresees most operations needing at least two scanners, as well as computers, internet access, etc. to fully comply with the NLIS. ABA estimates the cost for a 300 cow operation to be over $10,000. That's $10,000 many of them don't have, causing an expected exodus of many producers. Along with all the new NLIS requirements, cattle still are transported with the same documentation as before including: PIC, brand, earmark, waybill and breeder declaration. This system is still believed by breeders to be a better alternative and proven system.
The ABA estimates that the cost of NLIS will be $37 per head. However, this cost does not include any additional labor costs for applying the tag or for any reduction in animal performance and weight due to the extra handling required for the NLIS.
Although Hewitt expects NLIS may be dropped within five years because of all the problems, she emphatically stated, as did her predecessor John Carter at the 2005 R-CALF USA Convention, "YOU MUST FIGHT IT!"
It is becoming increasingly apparent that animal identification is really becoming a trade issue and being directed by those who see this program as a potential profit center. The U.S. is implementing animal ID to control an animal disease outbreak rather than strengthening the import standards to prevent the introduction of animal diseases. Hewitt said it best recently during a trip to Billings, Montana, "Animal identification, tags, paperwork, etc. will never control or prevent a disease."
Cattlemen's Journal USA Winter 2005
R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) represents thousands of U.S. cattle producers on domestic and international trade and marketing issues. R-CALF USA, a national, non-profit organization, is dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry. R-CALF USA's membership consists primarily of cow/calf operators, cattle backgrounders and feedlot owners. Its members - over 18,000 strong - are located in 47 states, and the organization has over 60 local and state association affiliates.
R-CALF USA WILL HAVE A GUEST SPEAKER AT THE ARAPA MEETING IN CONWAY, ARKANSAS ON JULY 9, 2006. SEE UPCOMING MEETINGS PAGE FOR DETAILS.
AUSTRALIA’S TRACKING SYSTEM RAISES CONCERNS -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- AUSTRALIA: A beef group challenges the National Livestock Identification System participation figures. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Reports from Meat and Livestock Australia that 38 million National Livestock Identification System tags are now registered on the database have been challenged by the Australian Beef Association.
Linda Hewitt, chairwoman of the ABA, said the claim was of “enormous concern” because Australia only has about 27 million head of cattle. A director from ABA telephoned MLA and asked if this was a record of all tags sold in Australia and said he was told that it was the number of cattle registered, Hewitt said.
“One hopes that a disease outbreak does not happen this week, as the 48-hour 'trace-and-isolate' might be just a little hard to deliver, with over 11 million 'phantom' cattle that have to be accounted for before we get to the real herd of Australia,” she said.
Hewitt added: “Actually, we think they said they could do it in four hours, didn't they? When this all falls over -- and it will -- who will protect Minister McGauran from the fallout? He was handed this huge mess by state primary industries ministers and Cattle Council of Australia, who are telling him NLIS is working perfectly, and therefore he does not understand why producers do not tell him differently. That is because producers do not know how to prove it.”
Web posted: June 7, 2006
"The Australian Beef Association is in total disagreement with the Regulatory Impact Statement, and is totally opposed to the introduction of the mandatory National Livestock Identification System in its current configuration. The proposed system is unworkable and was developed without adequate consultation with beef producers, who are the major stakeholders in the industry. The NLIS as it stands has not been shown to deliver any benefit that will outweigh the cost of its implementation and operation. The proposed system is fatally flawed in that does not allow traceability back from the end consumer to slaughter, then back to birth. Failings of the Regulatory Impact Study are detailed in this submission."
A group of Australia's cattle farmers are criticising the Federal Government for persisting with a national identification system that the FARMERS SAY DOES NOT WORK.
The Australian Beef Association is calling for an independent audit of the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS), after Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran announced his department would oversee the audit.
Association chairwoman Linda Hewitt says the tagging system is not effectively keeping track of cattle numbers in Australia.
"We have grave concerns about it actually providing no traceability at all," she said.
"I've asked Mr McGauran to please do an independent audit of the database - governing all this electronic ear tagging in cattle - to verify if transfers and imports going into the database is correct or not."
Ms Hewitt says THE SYSTEM IS ALSO VERY EXPENSIVE.
"This is hugely expensive technology - outdated technology - that they've forced on farmers. They know it doesn't work," she said.
"They're saying that WE'RE TO CONTINUE DOING IT AND FUNDING IT UNTIL THEY GET THE TECHNOLOGY RIGHT but the Australian beef industry cannot afford to skim any more money off the profits to fund something that is DEFINITELY NOT WORKING AND WILL NEVER WORK."
A typical cattle producer objections to e-NLIS: (e-NLIS: electronic-National Livestick Identification Scheme)
By: (Cattle Producer - Charters Towers) I attended an e-NLIS forum in Charters Towers which was an eye-opener.
One of the progressive and well known Charters Towers cattle producers said they have done 14,000 head over 4 years and have had no end of trouble. They use them to access the EU market through their own feedlot. The race readers are prone to problems and they usually resort to wand readers - which also have problems, resulting in manual reading of each tag to send tag numbers to the database. There are email problems with the electronic transfer of data to MLA.
One mob had to be read numerous times before a correct reading could be obtained before slaughter. The whole mob may have to be re-read each time until the total number reads correctly and the "lazy tags" are eliminated.
Bindaree Beef Principals were there and advised us to stop mandatory ID if possible. There are a large number of "lazy tags" that do not read at meatworks level and hold up consignments which cost the producer and the processor money, but no guessing as to whose pocket the loss will eventually fall into. Tags are expected to have at least a 50% loss over any cow life span.
Botswana and Canada are the only two countries in the world who have trialed electronic ear tags - Botswana is a totally government funded scheme for the Rumen Bolus system to be applied to their 3 million cattle to identifiy and stop cattle from being smuggled out of Zimbabwe. The Quebec Province with $21.6 million of government money subsidising a mirror project to Australia's proposed NLIS, but only on 1.2 million cattle, is not working.
We are the only producer funded country who implemented NLIS. This scheme was offered by John Anderson via AQIS to the EU who supposedly advised us against using it at that time. Bindaree Beef cannot fill its market share of the EU quota because of the tag system - not enough producers were staying with it because of the problems involved. Our National Vendor Declaration mandatory trace back system which is still the most effective in the world would have been sufficient then and still is now.
Final result - the technology is terminally flawed and it may cost beef producers approximately $37 per head in direct and indirect costs. Afgorce and MLA are pushing introduction of e-NLIS hard on our behalf - and I was told by ABA members that a tag company has recently threatened ABA for trying to stop the program.
Seeing as a couple of tag companies will probably stand to gain around $100,000,000 million first up to tag the Aussie herd and then have a renewable calf resource, I begin to wonder if there is a smell around bigger than a bottle of red wine. Could be they have decided to use us to be world leaders to coin a global market - just my bit of cynicism!
At three meetings 1,200 producers have voted 100% against mandatory e-NLIS. Roma has had a meeting since then. My personal feeling is that we will have an excess of frustrated producers trying to learn and keep their computer systems up and running. I have had 5 computers over an 18 year span to keep up with technology. They are costly, time consuming and very troublesome. Not to mention the personal level of frustration between families and staff who will have to find the extra time to read and log tag numbers into the MLA database each time an animal is moved off a property for any reason, whether it be for agistment, saleyards, sport, and no doubt, eventually meatworks and export. There is a big push on for 100% tag compliance.
There will be an increase in serious accidents in the workplace. Stock will have to be rehandled on many occasions. Each time an animal is reworked within a short space of time (which will be unavoidable) they become more stressed and unpredictable. Stock handlers will also become stressed, particularly when they are being forced to perform an unnecessary operation - this combination is deadly in an already dangerous industry. This scenario is unavoidable if this flawed technology is pushed upon us.
For those producers who have a useful application for electronic tags, they will be prepared for any inconvenience they may cause - and if the scheme is not mandatory - there will not be dire consequences when a mob of cattle does not read correctly.
We were advised the only way to give the mandatory introduction of e-NLIS a jolt now is to write to Qld DPI Minister, Palaszczuk, Premier Beattie and our local and federal and state ministers with our concerns, which I shall do. It was strongly suggested that if we do not want this in our management program to say that we will not do it.
Sheep NLIS confusion By MARIUS CUMING, national sheep and wool writer - Australia Thursday, 23 March 2006
Confusion still surrounds the sheep National Livestock Identification System (NLIS).
As the first lambs are to be tagged under the mandatory NLIS in coming weeks, breeders are perplexed as to what tags to use. Although a national system, the NLIS is administered at a state level, with each having their own tagging requirements. All tags require a Property Identification Code (PIC). But a standard colour code for the year of birth has not been set. And NSW has not insisted on the NLIS logo being on tags, unlike all other states. If NSW breeders wish to sell stock into other states, they may have to retag sheep.
A lack of standardisation across Australia is not unlike the rail guage differences between the States that has plagued our railway network, according to Poll Dorset Association president, Graham Day.
“My own personal opinion is that it is very disjointed and many breeders are confused," he said. "I would have thought a national system should be that, truly national."
"For those selling interstate it is not that clear and I can see multiple tags being used,” he said.
NLIS implementation committee chair, Ian Feldtmann, admitted each state had their own slant on NLIS. But he said producers would be brought up to speed by their stock agent when ordering tags.
“I suppose the communication of these things could always be improved but I believe it is as national as we can get it,” he added.
Victorian NLIS representative, Tony Britt, said there was national standardisation with 15 tags accredited through Meat and Livestock Australia. Although not mandatory, producers are being strongly encouraged to use red tags for lambs born this year, thereby adopting the West Australian yearly colour code.
The Victorian government recently released a tender for the supply of 250,000 electronic eartags per year, despite the current cost of $2.50 per tag.
“We are just feeling the water on this” Dr Britt said. "Who knows what we can get the price down to. We need to provide an option for those wanting to use radio frequency technology. There are plenty of them out there."