Tougher approach on animal traceability

  • Hon Damien O’Connor
Agriculture Biosecurity

Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor says he’s told officials to take a tougher approach with farmers and all other users who do not meet their obligations under the National Animal Identification and Tracing Scheme (NAIT).

Fines of up to $10,000 can be issued for non-compliance under the NAIT Act 2012.

Preliminary data shows most animal movements to sale yards and meat processors are recorded within the required 48 hours after they are completed, however a large percentage of farm-to-farm movements are not recorded at all.

Mr O’Connor says a review of NAIT, which started in mid-2016 and will soon be complete, provides a good opportunity to highlight how important it is to have a fully functioning animal tracing system, and for all farmers and industry to comply with NAIT requirements.

“The recent Mycoplasma bovis response has shown us that where farmers have complied with the requirements, the tracing of animals has been quick and accurate, whereas those who haven’t complied have made this a lot more difficult.

“With outbreaks like this, speed of response is vital to containing a disease, so it’s more important than ever that our farmers and industry use this system.

“Overall, compliance with the system is good for animals passing through sale yards and going to slaughter, however, big improvement is needed in other areas.

“OSPRI and the Ministry for Primary Industries will take a tougher approach on non-compliance to support the wider changes to NAIT and to ensure improved traceability of animals,” Mr O’Connor says.  

Recommendations from the review, and a discussion document will be available when consultation begins next year.

The NAIT review was undertaken by a technical user group made up of a broad range of users, including farmers, and overseen by a steering committee, with members from MPI, DCANZ, Deer Industry New Zealand, Federated Farmers, OSPRI, Dairy NZ, Beef+LambNZ and the Meat Industry Association.

NAIT review Steering Committee chairman Sir Henry van der Heyden says international experience shows that implementing animal tracing systems is challenging and it takes several years to get a fully functioning system.

“To make sure NAIT is fit for purpose and user friendly, we will be consulting widely with farmers and industry on the proposed recommendations in the New Year,” says Sir Henry.

“It’s important we know what is working for farmers and industry, and if there are any barriers in the system that are stopping people from complying.”

“We strongly encourage people to get involved and have their say on the recommended changes to NAIT.’’

NAIT was set up in 2012 to rapidly and accurately trace animals from birth to slaughter or live export. It is a government/industry partnership. NAIT is implemented by management agency OSPRI New Zealand and MPI oversees on legislative and regulatory matters.

Questions and answers

What are farmers expected to do to comply with NAIT?

  • Register their properties with NAIT if they have deer or cattle.  Once registered, they get a NAIT number that is linked to their property
  • Tag all cattle and deer before they are 6 months old or move off the farm – whichever comes first
  • Within a week of tagging, register the animals in NAIT
  • Record all movements of animals within 48 hours – both sending and receiving movements need to be recorded – though if animals are going direct to slaughter only the meat processor is required to record the movement.

What action can MPI take for non-compliance?

MPI can issue directives requiring compliance with NAIT obligations, issue infringement notices, or, if deemed necessary, prosecute.

What’s the NAIT review recommending?

The NAIT review has considered a wide range of topics, including animal location and animal movement recording, assignment of NAIT number, tag readability, replacement and retention, tag visual coding, new tag technologies, roles and responsibilities of user groups under the NAIT standards, NAIT system enhancements, user experience, exemptions and their implications, compliance, education and existing regulatory provisions. 

The recommendations are currently being finalised for wider consultation in 2018, and focus on:

  • retaining accurate animal location and tracing information while making it easier for NAIT system users to fulfil their obligations
  • improving design aspects of NAIT
  • improving farmer and industry compliance with NAIT obligations.

What about stock agents who do a lot of the NAIT work on behalf of farmers?

The NAIT review will consider the role and responsibilities of all NAIT users, inclusive of farmers, stock agents, sale yards, meat processors and other accredited entities and information providers operating under the NAIT Act on behalf of farmers. For an effective NAIT system, all users need to be cognisant of their roles and responsibilities in relation to the NAIT system.