New Zealand will embrace a national mandatory animal identification system across its livestock industries over the next 12 months, with the beef and dairy components being implemented from July 1 this year.
The NZ minister for Primary Industries, David Carter, told industry stakeholders attending Allflex’s Platinum Primary Producers conference in NZ yesterday that after being “eight years in the making,” NZ Parliament had last month passed legislation that would see its livestock industries join countries like Australia and Uruguay in operating under a comprehensive, whole-of-life animal traceability system.
The deer industry will join the new National Animal Identification and Tracing program in March 2013.
Mr Carter said while NZ was not necessarily the cheapest global meat protein producer, its reputation as a leading producer of quality, safe food was internationally recognised.
We must play to our strengths and protect the New Zealand brand that sets us apart from cheaper protein competitors. This is why the adoption of animal identification and a traceback system is so critical.”
He said there had been opposition from some NZ livestock stakeholders, principally led by the Federated Farmers, who suggested the system was unnecessarily costly, and should be voluntary only. Mr Carter said these people failed to recognise how far behind the country was, when it came to its ability to trace livestock.
“The more progressive farmers and groups like Beef & Lamb NZ and Dairy NZ saw the benefits of the scheme some time ago,” he said.
The ‘widespread’ support of farmers was in recognition that NZ was behind the rest of the world, and particularly countries like Australia and Uruguay, which had operated industry-wide programs for some years.
“We had to do it,” he said. “While it is now law for NZ farmers to provide traceability, this is a great opportunity, also, for performance information to be gathered, and to increase productivity through individual animal identification.”
Last week, the NZ Government ran a cross-department Foot and Mouth Disease incursion testing exercise, which scrutinised in detail the nation’s ability to cope with an exotic disease outbreak.
“Even though it was make-believe, it was a sobering experience for me to spend time in the bee-hive bunker (an NZ Government building) asking questions of the personnel involved, from the DPI, the army, police, treasury, and ministries of environment, transport, health and social welfare,” Mr Carter said.
The large gathering of industry players engaged in the exercise also included organisations like NZ Federated Farmers, the Meat Industry Association, Deer Industry Association, Beef & Lamb NZ and the Road Transport Association.
“It was a successful exercise, with important lessons being learned that will be acted on.”
Mr Carter said the NZ Government had a lot of work going on in the biosecurity space.
“It’s about delivering the most effective biosecurity controls pre-border, at the border, and within New Zealand if a disease incursion occurs. We must get the balance right between facilitating tourism and trade, and keeping NZ safe from pests and diseases, both known and unknown.”
“It’s a key reason why Government-industry agreements are so important,” he said.
Another conference speaker, Chris Kelly, the chief executive of NZ’s largest corporate farmer, Landcorp, said some of the real advantages his company was finding in RFID, were ‘quite spectacular’.
“We think there are many more advantages over and above the provision of traceability for FMD, which is of primary importance,” he said.
However he questioned how ‘ready’ some of NZ’s livestock industry community were for the July 1 implementation.
“We’ve spent a lot of time training our staff, ensuring our readers and equipment is working properly, and I hope other farmers are in that position, or about to do it,” Mr Kelly said.
Minister Carter said he said some five million tags were sold in New Zealand last year, before the legislation was passed, and he was confident the industry would make the transition smoothly.
The program will be administered by a company called NAIT Ltd, owned by Beef & Lamb NZ, Dairy NZ and the Deer Industry Association.
“We want industry to own it and drive it from now on,” he said.
Chairman of Beef &Lamb New Zealand (the nation’s service delivery company equivalent to MLA), Mark Petersen, said electronic ID would be a ‘real enabler’ for the NZ livestock industry, delivering better monitoring, better analysis and better planning.
“We looked at NAIT as being the first step towards implementation in New Zealand. It is mandatory for cattle, because a major driver was BSE, which is a human health issue. However there are no human health drivers anywhere in the world to justify corresponding mandatory EID of sheep.”
“However the imperative for EID in sheep for productivity reasons is huge. NZ corporate livestock producers like Landcorp have done some great work on how management systems using the technology can work. Once farmers understand what EID means to them in terms of productivity, we will see it roll-out quite quickly on a voluntary basis in sheep,” he said.
• Beef Central publisher Jon Condon is in New Zealand this week attending the Platinum Primary Producers conference, hosted by tag manufacturer Allflex, in Masterton. The PPP conference draws together some of the largest and most influential primary industry stakeholders from across Australasia in a three-day program touching on some of the livestock sector’s big issues. More reports next week.