This is my final blog about Australia and it is devoted entirely to the National Livestock Identification System that Australia has put into place to identify their cattle. The first stop of the trip was at the Department of Primary Industries, Victoria and was a reoccurring theme throughout the entire trip. Every animal that leaves the property from where they were born are scanned into their system and they are able to pull up where the animal has been and the other animals they have interacted with. If a disease were to break out in Australia they would be able to track the origin of the animal within a couple of hours. This would give them a distinct advantage if a disease outbreak were to occur because they would be able to look back and trace where the animal had been and what other cattle the animal in question had been in contact with. (This could all occur in a couple of hours, whereas in the US it may take days.) If the disease were detrimental to the national herd this would cause less of an uproar because this might cut down on the number of animals that potentially might have to be killed.
This program was government supported and they were able to get the best possible deal with the manufactures of the tag for the producers. This encouraged costs to be minimal to the producers. Also, they have different colored tags to be placed in the ear for the birthplace of the animal and then one that could be placed in the ear if for some reason the tag is lost. This signals that there is partial information on that particular animal. At no time can the animal have 2 tags. At this time only cattle are mandatorily traced through this system. Some sheep are tracked, however, this is strictly voluntary at this time. However, there is a push to turn it mandatory.
At the moment some people use an electronic tracking devices but it is not an industry-wide or countrywide practice in the US. As consumers become more conscience of food safety the ability to have lifetime traceability becomes more and more important. This is one way where I definitely envision the US beef industry being improved as far as their traceability and tracking of beef animals.