LIVESTOCK agents are calling on Victorian farmers to oppose a push to mandate electronic sheep tags.
Such a move could be a "costly mistake" that would see extra charges forced back onto farmers, according to the Australian Livestock and Property Agents Association.
In a letter to farmers, group president Brendan Wade, calls on them to consider the costs of mandatory radio-frequency identification tags.
This comes as the Victorian Farmers Federation livestock group are set to debate a resolution to support electronic sheep tags at their annual general meeting tomorrow in Bendigo.
Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh last week said there was "ample evidence improvements to the current system were needed".
"Victoria needs an efficient identification and tracking system for sheep and goats to protect our livestock industries from the devastating economic consequences that would result from the spread of a serious exotic disease such as foot and mouth disease," Mr Walsh said.
He said a report last year demonstrated the current paper-based ID system would likely fail under strain of a FMD outbreak.
However, on Monday he told the The Weekly Times the Government had "no plans to mandate electronic tags". "But it does appear that electronic identification is the best way to ensure traceability," he said.
While the Government had no plans to mandate the technology, Mr Walsh said the Government felt it was important to "work with industry on these issues".
Mr Wade said RFID code was "not the silver bullet" and was yet to be proven to work in a commercial environment.
The current National Livestock Identification System database provided ample traceability if there was a disease outbreak, he said.
"The current system does and can work very well, if everyone does their bit as NSW (Department of Primary Industries) has proven," he said.
Mr Wade said farmers should demand what the costs for an electronic system would be.
He said the inability to answer such questions was "akin to writing a blank cheque for something that is neither proven nor justifiable".
RFID could cost producers 6 per cent of their gross margin, according to NSW DPI estimates, he said.
While all sectors along the supply chain would absorb costs, farmers would bear the brunt of extra charges, he said.
He said electronic tags would also not solve issues with farmers not transferring tag numbers from one property identification code to another.