It would be easy to think a national roll-out of the identification tags for sheep and goats is a done deal.
But what do last week's decisions by the NSW government and its counterparts mean for the next steps of policy, and also for farmers?
While government won't reveal what the next steps are as it is still liaising with stakeholders, it's clear the 'wheel doesn't have to be reinvented' as the system is already in place in Victoria.
Victoria transitioned to electronic tags for sheep and goats to enhance traceability on January 1, 2017, with implementation completed on January 1 this year.
Realistically, industry representatives say nothing can happen in NSW until July 2023 due to a number of hurdles, including establishing infrastructure and training at saleyards and on farm.
On top of that will be sourcing tags, especially if every producer takes up the system straight away.
At the moment there is a wait time of up to six weeks for tags - three weeks longer than it normally takes.
Then there is the issue of who will foot the bill.
Victoria's five-year staged rollout was supported by a $17 million government investment, which assisted producers, transporters, livestock agents, saleyards and abattoirs to adopt the system and included tag purchase subsidies for four years.
These tags are available to Victorian producers from 77 cents via Agriculture Victoria's centralised tag ordering system.
The sheep industry says the NSW government needs to come to the table to offset tag prices and the data system installation costs, which has been the biggest reason for pushback on the tags.
"Any change is scary when you don't know how it goes about...but it's not new technology in place, it's proven," said Floyd Legge from Ridgehaven, who is also NSW Farmers' sheep meat committee vice president.
"Victoria got thrown in the deep end and it was sink or swim...we don't have to reinvent the wheel. The rollout period being talked about is the same timeline."
Mr Legge, who adopted the tag system for his stud 10 years ago and commercial flock three years ago, said he did it for flock improvement through fleece weight micron testing and to keep an eye on reproductive rate of ewes.
But he said it was critical now, more than ever, due to biosecurity concerns.
"For a long time we've been telling our export markets we have 98 per cent traceability within the last 30 days and 95pc traceability for the lifetime of an animal," Mr Legge said.
"The fact of the matter is that research papers done consistently show we are significantly missing the mark on traceability even as low as 70pc.
"So therefore the issue for a long time is that our export market trades with us on the assurance of traceability, yet we can't meet the mark on what we say we can.
"We need to sharpen up because 60pc of product is exported.
"If we can't track and trace and contain an outbreak we won't be able to re-establish trade as quickly as we can after an exotic disease incursion.
"Every day we are shut out of an export market it will cost the industry $300m a week, which is the value of those markets."
Without those export markets, Mr Legge said Australia would effectively realign to the 1990s when lambs sold for $30 to $40 a head.
"The level of traceability we give export customers is underpinned by the system we have in place and the system we have in place underpins a $250 lamb not a $30 lamb," he said.
Mr Legge added the NSW government needed to commit a larger contribution than Victoria on tags for technology and training because our state flock was bigger.
Fortunately, on farm the implementation of data collection was not too bad, as panel readers or sticks could be used.
However, more fine tuning was required for bigger aggregations where there were large, fast-paced volumes of sheep turnover, and at saleyards to re-plan drafting areas so bottlenecks did not occur.
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Australian Livestock Saleyard Association (in Victoria) executive officer, Mark McDonald, said there were no impediments for NSW on eID so "they should get on with the job".
"You are not talking about something unknown," he said.
"It's like going to buy another new car. They work, there is plenty of history about them, people know what's going on and there is plenty of support.
"It's a proven technology now. It took a while for Victorian farmers but once the Victoria Farmers Federation came on board the process happened pretty quickly,"
Agriculture Victoria livestock traceability manager, Ben Fahy, noted mandatory eID tags for sheep and goats was 99pc effective in tracing livestock back to their place of birth in his state.
The Australian Livestock and Property Agents Association also supports a national traceability system provided "it is truly national, with absolutely no exemptions".
Meanwhile, although NSW Agriculture Minister, Dugald Saunders, did not want to comment further on the next steps, it is understood the next meeting with his national counterparts will be on August 5.
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