New data shows farmers are lifting their use of animal tracing after changes to strengthen the NAIT scheme and boost compliance, Biosecurity New Zealand says.

The news was particularly encouraging at this time of year when dairy farmers move cows between farms around the annual Moving Day, MPI director of compliance Gary Orr said.

"From January to March this year, 77 per cent of animals were registered correctly – a 24 per cent increase over the same period in 2019".

Orr also reported that 75 per cent of animal movements were recorded on time (within 48 hours of the movement), which was a jump of 11 per cent over the same time in 2019.

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As well as this, 98.7 per cent of animals slaughtered were tagged – an increase of 0.3 per cent from the previous year, Orr said.

The fine for NAIT (National Animal Identification and Tracing system) offences increased to $400 per animal in late 2019.

Orr said that was quite an incentive to do it right.

"While the fines are not the only driver, we believe these, along with significant communication with farmers, have seen some good improvements in NAIT behaviour".

However, there was still room for improvement, Orr said.

"Since the beginning of 2020, 436 infringements have been issued for NAIT offences and more than 800 warnings given for 'Failure to Register' offences. We need to get a lot better at this".

"Our ability to manage biosecurity threats such as Mycoplasma bovis and other diseases of cattle or deer is heavily dependent on being able to rapidly and accurately trace animal movements".

While Moving Day itself had just passed, many farmers were still moving herds.

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MPI urged farmers to have all animals NAIT tagged and registered, their NAIT accounts updated, new NAIT location numbers set up, and TBfree herd records up to date.

When moving livestock, farmers also needed to complete an Animal Status Declaration (paper or eASD) form and provide it to their transporter. Any farmers who needed help with this could call OSPRI's freephone – 0800 48 24 63.

Following a review in 2018, significant improvements were made to the NAIT system.

For example, the NAIT number was assigned to a location, not a person. The NAIT interface itself was improved to make it easier to use and a mobile app was developed.

Then the NAIT Amendment Bill was passed in December last year, tightening the rules around the handling of untagged animals, improving the use of NAIT data and increasing infringement penalties to reflect the seriousness of NAIT non-compliance.

On 14 June new rules will be introduced around the transportation of animals, introducing penalties for transporters moving untagged animals that do not have an exemption.

To ensure their compliance with this amendment, transporters will be requiring farmers to provide declaration paperwork that the animals are identified and registered with NAIT.

OSPRI is currently distributing several thousand books of the new declaration forms to farmers who have a high volume of livestock movements.