A Victorian livestock producer who could have jeopardised the state's livestock traceability system has been fined almost $12,000.
Bartholomew Merrall, Labertouche, was convicted and fined $11,900 at the Latrobe Valley Magistrates' Court on Wednesday after he was caught selling cattle which were incorrectly tagged.
Merrall was also fined for 16 other offences including the illegal removal of National Livestock Identification System ear tags, not correctly disposing of NLIS ear tags, failing to provide cattle movement information to the NLIS database and providing false information relating to the status of cattle.
The court heard when officers inspected Merrall's property in October 2019 they discovered 269 removed NLIS ear tags, including 45 of his white breeder tags.
The white breeder tags had been removed from cattle that had previously been consigned to export.
He subsequently changed the status of these removed NLIS ear tags to 'deceased' to cover up the removal of the NLIS tags after officers attended the property, the court heard.
Under Victoria's Livestock Disease Control Act Regulations it is illegal to remove NLIS tags.
Agriculture Victoria senior legal officer Penny Lucas said Merrall's actions had put Victoria's biosecurity system, and its livestock sector at risk.
"The National Livestock Identification System enables livestock biosecurity risks and disease outbreaks to be tracked, traced and quickly controlled," she said.
"It also provides certainty on the movement of livestock and livestock products through the supply chain, helping to facilitate access to premium international markets.
"The illegal activity of one producer can jeopardise the entire industry, impacting our ability to trace livestock in an emergency disease or food safety incident and causing important export markets to be lost."
For his conviction of dispatching and selling cattle not tagged correctly, Merrall was fined $3000.
He was also fined $4000 for the illegal removal of cattle NLIS ear tags, $1500 for failing to send required cattle movement information to the NLIS database within two days, $400 for failing to dispose of used cattle NILS ear tags to prevent being reused, and $3000 for providing false information to the NLIS database.
He was also ordered to pay the department service costs of $213.
Agriculture Victoria director of animal health and welfare Les Howard said the prompt detection of the offending and thorough investigation conducted by the department ensured potential risks were contained.
"The vast majority of Victorian producers do an excellent job of helping to ensure a strong biosecurity system is maintained," he said.
"A strong biosecurity system not only protects our agriculture sector, but also our environment, biodiversity, cultural heritage, economy and way of life."
For more information on NLIS including training on how to use the system please visit agriculture.vic.gov.au/nlis.
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