HBV Response to HRV Microchipping Announcement

Aug 3, 2017 | Harness Breeders Victoria HBV Response to HRV Microchipping Announcement

Harness Breeders Victoria (HBV) welcome the announcement from Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) to remove the cost of DNA Genotyping from foal registration in our state.  A vibrant breeding sector is critical to a sustainable industry, so removing part of the financial burden of registering a foal in Victoria is a welcome initiative.

Harness Breeders Victoria continue to question the veracity of the HRA decision to mandate the micro-chipping of Standardbred foals in Australia.  We are however, appreciative of the efforts of Harness Racing Victoria to see that the cost of implementation will be shared by the industry at large and breeders will be spared the direct cost of a policy we consider to be poorly developed and lacking benefit.

In regards to HRV’s statement of commitment to the Vicbred Scheme, HBV will continue to lobby the governing body to do more to ensure that the racing population in Victoria is sustained by a healthy breeding sector.  Removing cost barriers to breeders and programming more racing opportunities for Vicbred horses in the future will see HRV demonstrate their support for the breeding sector and our coveted Vicbred Scheme.

Shannon Nixon

President, Harness Breeders Victoria


The following is an excerpt from an article by Dr Tony Britt which will be published in full in the 2017 Spring edition of Trackbred or can be downloaded via the link below.

Dr Tony Britt is a HBV committee member and former President. Dr Britt chaired the Standards Australia committee that established Australia’s animal microchipping standards known as AS 5018-2001 and AS 5019-2001. He led the development in the early 2000s of Australia’s NLIS system for tracking cattle using electronic ear tags, and has frequently represented Australia on international committees and conferences convened to address issues relating to animal identification and traceability.

Microchipping as a method of identifying horses


Microchipping – Is it the future?

State Controlling Bodies, in consultation with Harness Racing Australia, are considering introducing microchipping as the primary method of identifying Standardbred horses, potentially commencing with this season’s foal crop.

Harness Breeders (Vic) has concerns about this development because of the potential for microchipping to add considerably to industry costs, and because of the limited benefits of microchipping compared to alpha-angle freeze branding. The following information may assist breeders who have questions about the use of microchips for the identification of their horses.

Microchipping of Standardbreds

Harness Breeders (Vic) has on a number of occasions discussed the merits of introducing microchips in place of alpha-angle freeze branding as the primary method of identifying Standardbreds.

Alpha-angle freeze branding, in the view of the committee, is still the most cost-effective and reliable method available for identifying horses when complemented by DNA parentage verification, and the recording of colour, sex and markings.

Freeze brands are cheap to apply from day of birth onwards, and last for the life of a horse.   Importantly, unlike the situation with microchips, industry participants do not need a reader to read a freeze brand, and can quickly recognise visually that a horse is a Standardbred.  The freeze brand number also contains useful information such as the State in which the horse was branded, and year of birth.

Mandatory microchipping of foals by accredited veterinary surgeons will impose a financial burden on Victorian breeders, or on the industry generally if veterinary costs are subsidised by Harness Racing Victoria.

There would appear to be no biosecurity imperatives driving the introduction of microchipping in horses, and the value of microchipping in the context of horses leaving the racing population is questionable given that registries for microchipped horses are frequently out-of-date and inaccurate, if such horses are recorded on an accessible register at all.

DNA analysis of hair follicle samples, and the recording of colour, sex and markings have been used successfully by Australia’s harness racing industry to complement freeze branding.  Harness Breeders (Vic) believes that this package continues to provide an affordable, robust and reliable approach to the identification of Standardbreds.

Harness Breeders (Vic) will continue to engage constructively with Harness Racing Victoria on this issue, and if a decision is made to introduce microchipping on a mandatory basis, will work to maximise the benefits and minimise industry costs.