At summit: At the Casino conference are Bill Bullard (left), CEO of R-Calf USA Ranches and Cattlemen Association, Australian Beef Association chairman Brad Bellinger, and ABA vice-chairwoman Linda Hewitt.
At summit: At the Casino conference are Bill Bullard (left), CEO of R-Calf USA Ranches and Cattlemen Association, Australian Beef Association chairman Brad Bellinger, and ABA vice-chairwoman Linda Hewitt. Doug Eton

ABA has a beef with tags

MORE THAN a quarter of the cattle monitored by identification tags are lost within the complex tracking system that costs $37 a head, an Australian Beef Association summit heard yesterday.

The ABA’s chairman Brad Bellinger told a Casino meeting, which drew about 70 farmers from as far afield as Perth and Tasmania, the National Livestock Identification System that was foisted on cattle producers was ineffective and ‘potentially dangerous’.

The ABA recently commissioned an audit of 57,000 tags – the largest ever – to find out if the system allowed cattle to be traced back to the farm.

“The audit found 34.5 per cent did not have lifetime traceability,” Mr Bellinger said.

“So when you are told by the Meat and Livestock Association that our NLIS system is wonderful, or there is full traceability, they are not telling the truth.”

“We have alerted the Government to the situation but they argue the system is still being bedded down. In actual fact the percentage loss of traceability of Australian cattle herds is increasing over time.”

Mr Bellinger said the system’s failure was because of producer processes, not transferring cattle on the data base, tags failing out of the animals ears and being replaced by other and faulty reading equipment.

The National Livestock Identification System is Australia’s system for identification and traceability of live-stock. It was introduced in 1999 to meet European Union requirements for exports.

However, Mr Bellinger said the world’s largest beef exporter, Brazil, did not use any identification system.

He said the audit authors of Australia’s system found achieving lifetime traceability was unlikely to be ever achieved.

“To rely on NLIS for credible information to contain a highly contagious disease outbreak would be illusionary and potentially dangerous to the industry,” he said.

Mr Bellinger said the previous system of wrapping the animals’ tail around a tag and the accompanying paper trail was “more than adequate and a lot less costly”.

He also took aim at the industry’s body, the Meat and Livestock Association which has come under growing criticism since it supported the Federal Government’s recent attempts to allow imports of beef from mad-cow affected countries.

Only days before the nation’s boarders were to be opened, Federal Primary Industry Minister Tony Bourke did a back flip and, succumbing to cattle farmers’ demand for a full import risk analysis, effectively placed a two-year moratorium on lifting the import ban.

“After 13 years of an undemocratic meat industry structure, that has been shamelessly supported by both sides of politics, Australian cattle producers have had enough of trying to run enterprises with cattle prices unchanged in the last 20 years,” Mr Bellinger said.



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