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The NLIS and National Vendor Declarations for livestock (September 2013)

Tasmania has just had its first formal prosecution of a producer in relation to the NLIS tagging of livestock.

The National Livestock Identification Scheme (NLIS) enables tracing of livestock and it is a most important tool in any emergency animal disease response or any food safety incident. All State governments and all major producer bodies support the NLIS. In Tasmania, it is covered by the Animal (Brands and Movement ) Act 1984.

The current case highlights the importance of producers understanding that the National Vendor Declaration (NVD) that they must supply when they sell or move livestock is a formal statement. They are declaring that all the information they have supplied about the livestock on the NVD is correct. There are consequences for providing information that is incorrect. The NLIS can only work if the information supplied by producers on the NVD can be relied upon.

In this case, some of the cattle sent to an abattoir did not have NLIS ear tags. The producer in charge of the cattle was issued an infringement notice (ie a fine) which was subsequently contested in court.  The producer eventually pleaded guilty to a charge of making a false representation as to whether an animal has a permanent identification device attached, in breach of section 22G(4) of the Animal (Brands and Movement ) Act 1984. This was because the producer had declared on the NVD that all the animals in the consignment were NLIS tagged with eartags when, in fact, some were not. The Crown elected not to proceed with a second contested charge relating to the absence of eartags on all the cattle.

The result of this case reinforces the importance of people checking that all the information they provide on the NVD is accurate before signing it.

Of course, there may be a rare circumstance where an animal arrives at a saleyard, abattoir or other property without an eartag - for example, if the ear tag is accidentally lost during transit or loading. In most cases, the livestock agent or a DPIPWE livestock officer, if there is one onsite, can issue an emergency ear tag. But in such a circumstance, the producer must arrange for the animal to be emergency-tagged and must not state on the NVD something that is not true.

Any producers that find themselves in a situation with accidentally untagged livestock in transit need to be upfront about that and alert the agent or the manager of the property receiving the livestock, as the case may be, so that an emergency tag can be issued and the integrity of the NLIS can be maintained.