Electronic ID a ‘no brainer’, state's chief veterinary officer says

Chief veterinary officer Charles Milne with the new EID tags. Picture: Morgan Hancock
Chief veterinary officer Charles Milne with the new EID tags. Picture: Morgan Hancock

The state’s chief veterinary officer understands better than most the importance of livestock traceability.

Charles Milne was in the thick of the UK’s foot and mouth outbreak in 2001 and says the destruction to stock and the economy illustrates the importance of rolling out electronic identification tags for sheep and goats in Victoria.

“We had to slaughter 6.5 million animals to control the outbreak,” Dr Milne said.

“I was responsible for operations in south-west Scotland and in my little operation we slaughtered 520,000 sheep and 20,000 cattle in eight weeks.

“It’s very real to me why you need traceability.

“If you can’t trace animals you can’t control disease and you can turn what is a disaster into an absolute catastrophe.”

Speaking at Sheepvention this week, Dr Milne EID tags were a “no brainer”.

“ABARES (Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences) suggest if we had an outbreak in Australia it would cost approximately $52 billion over 10 years, so we’re talking serious disease and consequence for farmers,” he said.

“One of the big implications is that our international markets would close and, because in Victoria we export half of what we produce, that would have a very serious and long-lasting impact.”

If you can’t trace animals you can’t control disease and you can turn what is a disaster into an absolute catastrophe.

Chief veterinary officer Charles Milne

While Dr Milne said traceability was also important for food safety where diseases could be passed from animals to humans.

”We have to trace animals and without effective traceability system it’s very difficult,” he said. Dr Milne urged producers to stay patient with the switch.

“Like any change, it can be challenging,” he said. “The more people get to use it the more people get to realise it’s not as frightening as they first thought.

“The only difference for farmers this year is instead of putting a conventional tag in they put in an electronic tag. The price is the same, they don’t need to invest in any equipment, but there are benefits in terms of the ability to safeguard their trade but also the ability to get feedback from abattoirs.

“It’s a no-brainer, really.”