The Minister for Primary Industries and Small Businesses Katrina Hodgkinson has announced from July 1, the Sheep Health Statement (SHS) is no longer mandatory.
The minister released a statement discussing the change in regulation.
“In line with the NSW government policy of reducing regulation and minimising red tape, the decision has been made to no longer mandate the use of the SHS,” Ms Hodgkinson said.
“The use of the SHS and Regional Biosecurity Plans is encouraged through advice and communication rather than a regulatory compliance regime,” she added.
Some sheep vendors agree with her, believing the system may have become too bureaucratic.
George Merriman from the Merryville Sheep Stud in Boowora, NSW said most of his clients bought on reputation.
“If clients request the SHS, we give it. But the vast majority don’t worry about it because they know our status and they can buy with confidence,” he said.
“I agree if buyers want to have some kind of confidence, but mandatory is overkill.”
Members of the Sheepmeat Council of Australia (SCA) still stress to farmers the importance of the document, particularly with the recent addition of Ovine Johnes’ Disease (OJD) to the comprehensive questionnaire.
“It’s important because it provides information about lice, foot rot, OJD and Ovine Brucellosis,” SCA CEO Ron Cullen said.
“It reduces the impact on those who have these diseases and stops those who don’t from getting them.”
Dubbo Vet Hospital veterinarian Dr Mark Carter believes this document can stop extra stress and expense down the track.
“Trading sheep is a pre-meditated enterprise, producers should take the time to fill in the form for the animals they are selling and buyers should take the time to interpret the document,” Dr Carter said.
“If they do not assess the risk they must bear the cost of treating and managing disease in their sheep.”
The statement has recently been reworked to become a straightforward document, making it more enticing to sheep buyers and sellers.
“The SHS is a document that’s been around for some time. It’s become simpler and more effective,” Mr Cullen said.
SCA president Ian McColl believes the SHS can make a difference to the future of farming.
“It’s up to the buyers whether they want to access it or not. It’s for the better, not just for the grower, but for the industry as a whole.
“It gives us a greater level of understanding, as an industry, the SHS improves biosecurity, making for a sustainable and profitable future,” Mr McColl said.
While Mr Merriman understood the value of biosecurity, he believed it should be a personal decision, not something mandated from the government.
“If there’s individuals who want biosecurity, fair enough. But don’t drag the rest of us into it,” he said. “People are big enough and sensible enough to realise there are risks.”
The Sheep Health Statement is no longer mandatory
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