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What are the animal welfare benefits of an electronic identification (NLIS) tag for livestock?
An electronic identification tag enables livestock to be tracked from their property of birth through to slaughter. The National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) tag is placed in the animal's ear and stays with the animal on farm, during transport, at saleyards and at the abattoir. The use of the NLIS tag is compulsory for cattle (as soon as they are transported off farm) but not yet for sheep.
The animal welfare benefits of an electronic ID tag include:
While the NLIS tag is compulsory for cattle, this is not the case for sheep where a plastic Property Identification Code (PIC) tag provides the only means for identification. Why doesn’t a plastic PIC tag provide the same benefits as the NLIS tag:
In August 2016, the Victorian government announced it would require all sheep to carry electronic identification ear tags from January 2017 if they are being sent to a saleyard, abattoir or other property. This is the first state/territory in Australia to do so.
The Victorian government believes the current mob-based visual tag system for sheep does not meet National Traceability Performance Standards, and that enhancements to the current system are not practical or cost effective for Victoria. The change to electronic ID was recommended by the Victorian Auditor General's Office review of Livestock Biosecurity.
The National Traceability Performance Standards that a mob-based visual tag can’t meet are:
1.1— Within 24 hours of the relevant CVO2 being notified, it must be possible to determine the location(s) where a specified animal was resident during the previous 30 days.
1.2— Within 24 hours it must be also possible to determine the location(s) where all susceptible animals that resided concurrently and/or subsequently on any of the properties on which a specified animal has resided in the past 30 days.
In short, the electronic ID (NLIS) tag that has the PIC visually readable, if applied from birth, stays with the animal for life, allows on-farm monitoring and management of individual animals, allows rapid traceability, and fits well with a future-focussed livestock industry. The RSPCA strongly encourages the sheep industry to adopt the NLIS technology
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