Concerns have been raised by the Australian Beef Association about reports from Meat and Livestock Australia that 38 million National Livestock Identification System tags have now been registered.

The report is of ‘enormous concern’ according to Linda Hewitt, chairwoman of the ABA, because Australia only has about 27 million head of cattle. A director from ABA telephoned MLA and asked if this was a record of all tags sold in Australia and was told that it was the number of cattle registered, Hewitt said.

‘One hopes that a disease outbreak does not happen this week, as the 48-hour ‘trace-and-isolate’ might be just a little hard to deliver, with over 11 million ‘phantom’ cattle that have to be accounted for before we get to the real herd of Australia’, she said.

Hewitt added: ‘Actually, we think they said they could do it in four hours, didn’t they? When this all falls over – and it will – who will protect Minister McGauran from the fallout? He was handed this huge mess by state primary industries ministers and Cattle Council of Australia, who are telling him NLIS is working perfectly, and therefore he does not understand why producers do not tell him differently. That is because producers do not know how to prove it.’