Earmarking and branding consultation

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Have your say on optional earmarking and branding for sheep and cattle in Western Australia

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) is proposing to amend the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management (Identification and Movement of Stock and Apiaries) Regulations 2013 to remove the mandatory requirements for earmarking sheep and earmarking or branding cattle.

If the proposal is legislated, individual sheep and cattle owners would be able to choose whether to continue or to cease earmarking and branding their stock.

Western Australian livestock owners, industry and the community are encouraged to provide feedback on a proposal to make earmarking and branding of stock optional.

Why is DPIRD putting forward this proposal?

Earmarking and branding of livestock was first used over 100 years ago in Western Australia as a permanent means of identification of ownership of sheep and cattle.

While this system, if applied correctly, is useful to visually identify the original owner of the animals, it is not able to identify subsequent owners nor to record movements through the supply chain.

Modern livestock supply chains require identification and traceability systems that can record multiple owners and record movements. The National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) provides this ability and underpins Australia’s biosecurity, market access and food safety.

As the NLIS provides an identification capability, the need for earmarking and branding has reduced, and most other Australian jurisdictions have removed mandatory earmarking and branding requirements.

Under this proposal, except for removing provisions for mandatory earmarking and branding, the NLIS regulations would not be changed other than to bring the timing for cattle NLIS identification in line with sheep NLIS tagging.

To find out more:

Have your say

DPIRD wants to know your views on this proposal. To have your say, follow the steps below to make a submission:

Note: Submissions may be published online at the conclusion of the consultation and may also be cited in a publically available report. Submitters who do not want their name published, or would like their submission to remain confidential, should clearly state this in their submission.

Submissions close on 22 December 2020 at 5pm AWST.

Next steps

Following the close of the consultation period, DPIRD will assess the feedback, amend the proposal where appropriate and communicate the outcome to stakeholders.

Have your say on optional earmarking and branding for sheep and cattle in Western Australia

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) is proposing to amend the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management (Identification and Movement of Stock and Apiaries) Regulations 2013 to remove the mandatory requirements for earmarking sheep and earmarking or branding cattle.

If the proposal is legislated, individual sheep and cattle owners would be able to choose whether to continue or to cease earmarking and branding their stock.

Western Australian livestock owners, industry and the community are encouraged to provide feedback on a proposal to make earmarking and branding of stock optional.

Why is DPIRD putting forward this proposal?

Earmarking and branding of livestock was first used over 100 years ago in Western Australia as a permanent means of identification of ownership of sheep and cattle.

While this system, if applied correctly, is useful to visually identify the original owner of the animals, it is not able to identify subsequent owners nor to record movements through the supply chain.

Modern livestock supply chains require identification and traceability systems that can record multiple owners and record movements. The National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) provides this ability and underpins Australia’s biosecurity, market access and food safety.

As the NLIS provides an identification capability, the need for earmarking and branding has reduced, and most other Australian jurisdictions have removed mandatory earmarking and branding requirements.

Under this proposal, except for removing provisions for mandatory earmarking and branding, the NLIS regulations would not be changed other than to bring the timing for cattle NLIS identification in line with sheep NLIS tagging.

To find out more:

Have your say

DPIRD wants to know your views on this proposal. To have your say, follow the steps below to make a submission:

Note: Submissions may be published online at the conclusion of the consultation and may also be cited in a publically available report. Submitters who do not want their name published, or would like their submission to remain confidential, should clearly state this in their submission.

Submissions close on 22 December 2020 at 5pm AWST.

Next steps

Following the close of the consultation period, DPIRD will assess the feedback, amend the proposal where appropriate and communicate the outcome to stakeholders.

Before asking a question, please register on the Talking Biosecurity site.

Have a question? Ask the DPIRD team here

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    Why do sheep not have to have the electronic NLIS as required by cattle owners for traceability?

    DALE2379 asked 15 days ago

    Hi Dale

    Sheep owners in WA can also use NLIS electronic ID if they wish but this is not mandated under the current regulations. 

    National sheep industry groups are currently discussing the traceability benefits offered by electronic ID in sheep. 

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    To reduce the number of tags a sheep or cow needs to have to identify their ownership, could the current NLIS tags be year colour coded? I am happy for the practice of earmarking cattle and sheep and branding cattle to be optional. But not earmarking cattle or sheep and branding cattle should also be optional

    Shelley0202 asked 17 days ago

    Hi Shelley

    Under NLIS Cattle, cattle only require one NLIS tag/rumen bolus for life.

    For NLIS sheep, currently the WA sheep industry uses a visual NLIS tag, which is colour coded according to the lamb’s year of birth. 

    Subsequent changes of ownership for sheep are shown by using a pink NLIS tag in the other ear to the birth tag. 

    However, sheep owners also have the choice to use electronic sheep NLIS tags under the current regulations - these tags are also year colour coded for use on the property of birth. 

    You can read more about the current NLIS sheep regulations in this link on the consultation page.


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    How will wandering stock be identified without tags? stock will be registered with NLIS at birth but how will the animal be identified?

    valhallasgate asked 17 days ago

    Under this proposal, stock will still be required to have NLIS identification. 

    Sheep NLIS requirements will not change at all.

    Cattle NLIS requirements will only have one change – to align the timing of NLIS tagging with sheep.

    See page 10 of the consultation paper for more details.

    Producers who believe their stock are at risk of straying before they are NLIS identified have the option to continue to brand/earmark under this proposal.