Why is DPIRD proposing to make earmarks in sheep and cattle and branding in cattle optional?
Earmarks and brands were traditionally used to provide evidence of the original owner of livestock. However, they do not provide whole-of-life traceability for stock as is now required for biosecurity, food safety and market access.
The National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) is now well established across Australia, and underpins our stock traceability. Industry has integrated NLIS into its approach, making earmarks and branding redundant for commercial purposes.
As NLIS already provides an effective identification system, some owners may wish to reduce the costs, labour, time and physical impacts on their stock by ceasing to earmark or brand, while other owners may have reasons to wish to retain earmarking and branding in some production systems.
Under this proposal, DPIRD will provide producers with a choice as to whether to earmark/brand or not.
Please read the consultation paper on this webpage for more detail about the proposal.
What is an earmark?
An earmark is a combination of two shaped notches taken out of the ear. The earmark is applied in a specified position as illustrated on the livestock registration certificate supplied to registered livestock owners by DPIRD. Approved earmarking pliers must be used.
For sheep, the registered earmark must be placed in the left ear for females and the right ear for males.
For cattle, male and female cattle are earmarked in the same ear nominated on the registration certificate.
The image below shows a sheep and cow with earmarks and NLIS identifiers.
What is a freeze or fire brand?
A freeze or fire brand identifies cattle by using a branding iron to apply the original owner’s registered brand (two letters and a number) applied to the left rump or shoulder. The hot branding iron or freeze brand (using liquid nitrogen) burns the skin to result in a permanent scar which can be read as the brand once healed. A cattle brand must measure at least 150mm long and 50mm high.
What is the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS)?
The NLIS is Australia’s traceability system for livestock. It provides whole-of-life traceability for sheep and cattle and underpins our biosecurity, food safety and market access.
The system uses NLIS identifiers (RFID ear tag or rumen bolus for cattle) and NLIS visual ear tags for sheep and an electronic database to record all locations the stock are moved to over their lifetime.
In the image below, the sheep has an NLIS visual tag, and the cow has an NLIS RFID ear tag.
Will I be able to keep earmarking my sheep and cattle and branding my cattle under this proposal?
Under this proposal you will be able to continue earmarking your sheep and cattle and fire/freeze branding your cattle. DPIRD will continue issuing stock brands and maintaining the register for your unique brand.
Do I have to earmark my sheep or earmark or fire/freeze brand my cattle under this proposal?
No, the proposed change will make this optional. It will be up to each owner to decide if they wish to earmark their sheep or cattle or brand their cattle.
Is there any change to pig tattoos under this proposal?
No, there is no change to any identification requirements for pigs.
Are there any changes to NLIS identification under this proposal?
The only NLIS change is that cattle will be required to be fitted with an NLIS device before six months old in the South-West land division and before 18 months in pastoral areas or before they first leave the property, whichever occurs first.
Currently cattle do not have to be identified with a NLIS device until they leave the property.
There are no changes to NLIS identification of sheep.
Where can I get more information about current NLIS and identification requirements for sheep and cattle in WA?
For sheep NLIS and identification information, see: https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/livestock-biosecurity/nlis-and-identification-sheep
For cattle NLIS and identification information, see: https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/livestock-movement-identification/nlis-and-identification-cattle-and-buffalo
I need more information before I make my submission. Who can I contact?
How can I make a submission?
To make a submission, complete the online submission form on this webpage.
If you have any difficulties making your submission, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance and DPIRD will contact you. Note: the email address is not to be used for submissions.
Note: Submissions may be published online at the conclusion of the consultation and also 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 online submission.
What happens to the information in my submission?
Following the consultation closing date, DPIRD will review the submissions and assess whether the proposal is supported by stakeholders or requires changes.
Your submission may be published online at the conclusion of the consultation and also cited in a publically available report. If you do not want your name published, or would like your submission to remain confidential, you should clearly state this in your online submission.
What are the next steps once the consultation closes?
Following the consultation closing date, DPIRD will review the submissions and assess whether the proposal is supported by stakeholders or requires changes. The proposal will then be finalised and Ministerial approval sought to begin drafting legislative amendments.
The final proposal will be published on the DPIRD website and communicated to industry. A communications campaign will be implemented before any amendments are made law.