Legislative Council: Tuesday, February 20, 2024


Virtual Fencing

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (14:42): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development regarding virtual fencing.

Leave granted.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: The Malinauskas government is undergoing animal welfare reforms. As the legislation currently stands, the commercial use of virtual fencing for livestock is prohibited under South Australian animal welfare legislation. My question to the minister is: will her government be introducing legislation as part of the animal welfare reforms to allow the legal use of virtual fencing for commercial use, and, if not, why not?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:43): I thank the honourable member for her question. Again, I know that I have answered a similar question previously, certainly in terms of the basis, which is around the research that is underway in regard to virtual fencing for use by the South Australian livestock industry. The Struan Research Centre is doing that work. I certainly feel that virtual fencing provides an opportunity to better manage grazing pressure on pastures, improve natural resource management on farms and reduce labour costs associated with installing and maintaining traditional internal farm fences.

Virtual fencing, for those who are unaware, is an agtech solution that manages animal movement via GPS-enabled virtual boundaries. The boundaries are enforced by neck bands worn by each animal. The neck bands administer audio tones and electric pulses in response to the animal's location and behaviour and, over time, the animals learn to avoid the pulse by responding to the audio tone alone.

I am advised that there are five research trials that have been completed to date at Struan Research Centre in the Far North and on Eyre Peninsula. There was some delay with the Struan Research Centre project because of the building fire that occurred, but a number of research activities have taken place since the beginning of 2023.

The aims of this research really come to the basis of the question from the member opposite. The aims of the research are to assess any animal wellbeing impacts of virtual fencing, to investigate the commercial applications, to quantify the demand for virtual fencing and the barriers to adoption and to inform options to allow the use of virtual fencing in sheep and cattle in South Australia.

That first one, in regard to assessing the animal wellbeing impacts, is absolutely key. Once we have had full completion of that research, that project, and I have been briefed on it, we will have the opportunity to say more.