Sheep stock and station agents
Stock agents across the country have reacted angrily to a study report into the feasibility of operating electronic scanning equipment in the State's sheep saleyards, that relied heavily on information supplied by all sectors of the sheep industry.
The study, conducted at 13 Victorian saleyards, claims the introduction of an electronic National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) (sheep and goat) system was technically feasible and would not impose an unreasonable burden on saleyards, saleyards staff, producers, transporters, agents and buyers.
The study was undertaken by the Livestock Saleyards Association of Victoria (LSAV) and has been delivered to Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI), who provided funding for the study.
Agents claim that members generally have boycotted or had low input, saying the LSAV and the Department have marked their own examination papers.
The issue erupted when LSAV executive officer Mark McDonald was heard proclaiming the study's success on ABC Radio on Tuesday.
Mr McDonald said the study had included a demonstration of tag scanning technology at each site to road tested available equipment.
Hamilton agent and ALPA board member Warren Clarke said people were being fed misinformation.
He said there was no demonstration of scanning equipment at Hamilton.
And that a casual walk through the Hamilton saleyards by a consultant had identified if scanning was introduced at least 17 scanners may be needed in the south-west saleyards, which yards 20,000 to 50,000 head three days a week in the busy season.
That was it, Mr Clarke said.
"There was no demonstration and no board consultation of the industry," he said.
There has also been no report back to Hamilton saleyards indicating the study was undertaken and any outcomes that may have arisen.
"The questions of who will pay, who will operate these scanners and where they might be placed are questions we have not seen answers to," Mr Clarke said.
Mr McDonald said the study claims estimates of equipment and other set up costs were also collected.
He said expected costs varied widely, particularly in those yards that were well advanced in planning for electronic NLIS future.
Anticipated infrastructure costs would be modest, he said.
Mr Clarke said they physically don't have the manpower at Hamilton to conduct the scanning of sheep, which means any additional hired help would be a cost directly passed to the producers.
A key recommendation of the LSAV study is that model saleyards be established to fully implement an operational electronic system.
LSAV suggests three sizes of saleyards are preferred - large, medium and small - and these sites would fine-tune operational arrangements, test supporting software and provide training opportunities for other yards prior to implementation.
However enquiries made by Stock and Land can reveal that at least eight of the nominated 13 yards are small volume saleyards that operate infrequently on a fortnightly or less basis.
And five of these saleyards, while having participated in the study like Hamilton, have also not seen or signed off on the reports written on their yards that have been submitted by the LSAV to the DPI on their behalf.
Elsewhere, the Ballarat and Bendigo saleyards have independently conducted scanning trials as the State's two largest saleyards in Victoria.
Regional Infrastructure Pty Ltd (RIPL), the operator of Ballarat saleyards, has attempted to quantify if scanning can be conducted on a commercial basis.
RIPL director Garry Edwards said while they don't doubt the technology was available, he had concerns on cost implementation and making sure set-up costs did not become overwhelming.
Bendigo stock agents president Nigel Starrick said only one trial had been conducted at the Bendigo yards with inconclusive results.
"Bendigo are prepared to embrace the scanning technology if and when it is declared," he said.
"We believe we are to be one of the model saleyards, of the three indicated in the LSAV study, but we have no idea of the cost set-up and scanning requirements until the rules of scanning are determined."