Livestock Agents Plead Guilty to Non-compliance of Cattle Traceability System

AUSTRALIA - Three Gippsland livestock agents have avoided conviction after pleading guilty to charges relating to the movement of cattle.
calendar icon 16 May 2018
clock icon 3 minute read

ABC Online reports that Steven Boulton, Clayton William Kelly and Peter Rosenberg all pleaded guilty to various charges relating to cattle traceability under the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS).

The charges, from 2016, included failing to record the movement of cattle between two properties and failing to forward that information to authorities within seven days, as required under the Livestock Disease Control Regulations.

When people are trading sheep, goats and cattle they are required to have an NLIS-compliant ear tag.

The purchaser of cattle is required to record and notify the NLIS database of the movement information of cattle to allow for traceability.

Both vendor and buyers must each have a Property Identification Code (PIC) to also show where the animal had come from and where it would be going following the transaction.

Of the three men, Mr Boulton, who is a co-director of Wellington Livestock, pleaded guilty to the most charges, one of which the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) described as particularly shocking.

In one instance, in November 2016, animal health officers scanned more than 330 of Mr Boulton's cattle at Shady Creek and not a single one had their movement information updated on the NLIS.

The cattle were still linked to properties across Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.

At Mr Boulton's property in Traralgon, animal health officers scanned 309 cattle and 227 of those were linked to 78 PICs in Victoria and interstate.

DEDJTR argued that the three men failed to update NLIS records from hundreds of cattle across properties at Cobains, Myrtleford, Traralgon, Perry Bridge, Shady Creek near Warragul and Dreeite in Western Victoria.

The defendants' lawyer told the court the trio had taken steps to improve their practices including purchasing scanners and consolidating their property identification codes.

Magistrate Simon Zebrowski ordered Mr Boulton to donate $5,000 to the RSPCA.

The magistrate said he had to impose a financial penalty as a deterrent to others.

Mr Kelly was asked to donate $4,000 and Mr Rosenberg $3,000.

The three men will also have to complete NLIS training.

NLIS crucial to biosecurity, export markets

Agriculture Victoria manager of livestock traceability Ben Fahy said the NLIS is important to ensure biosecurity and disease traceability, crucial for market access.

"In the event that someone in the supply chain doesn't do the right thing and it leads to a disease outbreak or lack of traceability when there is an incident, the ramifications are wide-reaching," he said.

"The producer and industry will suffer if there are market losses or there's damage to our reputation.

"The livestock industry is a multi-billion dollar industry and the inactions by one person can cause extreme consequences."

Mr Fahy said while the outcome of the case was not the optimum result from the 18-month investigation, it was satisfied with the magistrate's decision.

"I think it was a good reminder for producers out there to ensure that they are aware of the requirements for the traceability of their livestock," Mr Fahy said.

"In any investigation there's always a lot of resources put in to it. We try and do as much as we can. And ultimately the process is what it is, going through the court, and it's up to the magistrate.

"For us it was pleasing that awareness in the community and hopefully all Victorian producers have been raised — that there are legal requirements for owning livestock and ensuring that they're traceable."

Agriculture Victoria said it had other investigations relating to the NLIS ongoing and that the matters were being taken very seriously.

It said there have been four previous prosecutions in Victoria for offending under the Livestock Disease Control Act.

All of those cases resulted in guilty pleas.

The highest penalty was a $2,000 fine, with a conviction.

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