Farmer registrations rise for electronic ID scheme

By Ben Chapman-Smith

A radio frequency identification tag used to track cattle as part of the National Identification Animal Tracing scheme. Photo / Wanganui Chronicle
A radio frequency identification tag used to track cattle as part of the National Identification Animal Tracing scheme. Photo / Wanganui Chronicle

More than 6000 farmers have registered this week for a compulsory electronic tagging system for livestock, which went live over the weekend.

The National Animal Identification and Tracing scheme (Nait) became mandatory for cattle last Sunday and will go live for deer from March next year.

Farmers and people working with livestock are now required by law to tag animals with a radio frequency identification device (RFID) ear tag, which provides up-to-date information on individual animal locations and movements.

The aim is to boost biosecurity by tracing livestock from birth and farmers will keep records of all deaths, losses or exports of live cattle or deer.

About 30,000 people and their properties registered on the database before Sunday, and that had risen to about 36,500 by this morning, said NAIT chief executive Russell Burnard.

The scheme is seeing about 700 to 800 new registrations a day.

"It's early days and we are expecting registrations will continue to rise as people register before moving animals," Burnard said.

"The good news is that such a large number of people signed up ahead of time."

There are an estimated 65,000 cattle and deer herds in New Zealand, meaning Nait is about half way there with registrations.

The register stores information about each animal's RFID number, location, and the contact details of the person in charge of the animal.

Nait asks people to specify what type of production animals they have when they register.

Burnard said the latest breakdown shows just under one-third of people registered are dairy farmers, around two-thirds are beef, and the balance are deer farmers.

"We don't ask people to identify themselves as a commercial farmer or a lifestyle farmer, but based on a breakdown according to farm size it's about 60 per cent lifestyle farmers, 40 per cent commercial farmers."

There has been positive feedback from Nait field representatives who are attending sales around the country this week, Burnard said.

Compliance rates with Nait-tagged stock coming through the yards are at about 95 per cent, he said.

"This is really positive - it shows farmers know what they have to do and they have prepared.

"Sale yard operators we have spoken to have been well-prepared and tag-reading has been going smoothly."

Beef and Lamb New Zealand, DairyNZ and Deer Industry New Zealand, who are shareholders in the Nait scheme, have welcomed Nait's launch.

Beef and Lamb said the move to electronic identification presents opportunities for New Zealand to reinforce, in our overseas markets, our on-going commitment to producing high quality and safe food.

"The enhancement of our traceability systems will put us at the forefront in those high value overseas markets where consumers increasingly demand assurances regarding the traceability of their food," said Ben O'Brien, general manager of market access.

DairyNZ spokesperson Elizabeth Dixon said Nait is seen as an important development in New Zealand's biosecurity readiness and response.

"We invest heavily in biosecurity because an incursion of an unwanted pest or disease like food and mouth disease is the single biggest threat to our industries," she said.

"NAIT enhances our response toolbox in the event of such an emergency."

The deer industry said it has taken a lot of hard work to get us to this point.

"While there remains a transitional period ahead for cattle, and to introduce deer into the new electronic recording system, it has been a good example of how industry and the government can partner to support initiatives in New Zealand's interest," said Mark O'Connor, head of Deer Industry NZ.

One body that has opposed the regime on its journey to implementation is Federated Farmers.

The group is against a mandatory scheme and believes a voluntary regime would be as easy and cost-effective to implement.

Anders Crofoot, spokesperson on national identification and tracing, said last week that Federated Farmers had accepted Nait was going live and was aiming now to make the roll-out as easy as possible for farmers.

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