Incorrect ear tags become costly crime for cattle farmers

CORRECT IDENTIFICATION: Cattle are required to have unique National Livestock Identification System ear tags, used to trace their movements from birth.

CORRECT IDENTIFICATION: Cattle are required to have unique National Livestock Identification System ear tags, used to trace their movements from birth.

Two hefty fines issued in court over the past week have served as a warning for cattle producers and livestock agents who do not follow the regulations on ear tags.

When police inspected his cattle in December 2016, they discovered one had a National Livestock Identification System ear tag belonging to an older animal.

Another animal for sale by Burgess at Barnawartha in May 2017 was found to have a tag connecting it to a previous breeder.

Three Gippsland-based livestock agents were ordered to pay a total of $12,000 to the RSPCA for failing to correctly record cattle movements, after facing Sale Magistrates Court on Tuesday. 

The men will also be required to undertake NLIS training for livestock producers this year. 

The charges followed an 18-month investigation by the Department of Economic Development Jobs, Transport and Resources into breaches relating to the movement of 332 cattle. 

Albury Detective Senior Constable Scott Barton, who specialises in the cattle industry, told Wodonga court it was important the NLIS was respected as “quality assurance” for the rest of the world so it could protect Australia’s $7.1 billion cattle industry.

“By misrepresenting or misidentifying cattle, we’re putting just just our own cattle at risk, we’re risking that export market of 77 countries,” he said.

“Instead of quarantining a certain area or a state, we’d have to quarantine the country.”

Burgess was originally investigated on charges of stealing four cattle from his neighbour’s Corryong property in 2016, but police withdrew the charges after the first day of what was scheduled to be a three-day hearing.

Magistrate Fran Medina had heard evidence the cattle would occasionally walk off the property, either into scrub or neighbour’s paddocks.

“There’s cattle wandering all over the place,” she said.

She said the fines relating to misidentifying cattle were a result of Burgess’ “own lack of vigilance”.