Before long, it may be possible to electronically track each individual stick of deer velvet back from the marketplace to the farm of origin.
A new tracing system is now being considered by vets, farmers, buyers, exporters and others in the velvet supply chain.
This would mean the nylon cable ties that are used to tag velvet at present being replaced with a new type of tag that will carry a barcode and a UHF electronic chip.
Several prototype tags have been trialled by members of the Southland branch of the New Zealand Deer Farmers Association as well as the three largest velvet exporters.
Their feedback and that of the National Velvet Standards Body has been used to make some refinements to the proposed system.
Deer Industry NZ (Dinz) science and policy manager Catharine Sayer said the new tags would be more durable than the nylon cable ties that tended to become brittle and break during freezing.
They will also add value, by:
• Enabling fast, accurate and effortless product tracing for food safety or biosecurity reasons.
• Indicating that the farm of origin complies with velvetting welfare and food safety rules.
• Helping farmers, vets and other businesses in the velvet supply chain with their inventory management, which will become virtually paperless.
• Supporting the premium market positioning of New Zealand velvet, by allowing branding to be added and reducing the risk of counterfeiting.
''The best format appears to be an artificial paper 'wristband' similar to that used in past years by the Elk-Wapiti Society,'' she said.
In the next season, a barcoded version of the new tag will be introduced to replace the cable tie, but existing tag distribution, recording, paperwork and Velvet Status Declarations (VSDs) requirements will not change.
As soon as the selection and design of this tag is finalised, Dinz will advise velvet farmers about the use of remaining stocks of cable ties.
If this new tag works well, Dinz will look to roll out in the 2020-21 season a fully electronic system with UHF electronic chips in the tags.
Record keeping requirements and methods would then change, Sayer said.
UHF chips are cheap and they also enable multiple tags to be read quickly and accurately at the same time, such as in depots and packhouses handling large volumes of sticks of velvet in a consignment or container.
''Under the proposed new system, farmers won't have to scan tags, keep a note of numbers, nor keep paper records of tags received, applied or transferred.
''Nor would they have to produce paper VSDs,'' she said.
Farmers could still, if they wish, use the barcode to scan sticks on the farm using smartphones or other barcode readers.
The stick's barcode could then be associated with other information entered into a farm management system, such as the stick's weight and grade and the stag's Nait tag.
A fact sheet explaining the system and its advantages can be found on the Dinz website here.
Dinz will hold shed meetings during June and July, at which farmers and others can ask questions about the proposed new system and give feedback.
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