The United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union on Friday and the beginning of trade negotiations between the two blocs removes come uncertainty for NZ’s meat industry.
Beef + Lamb NZ (BLNZ) plans in the coming months to develop a business case before starting consultation with farmers.
But electronic ear tags and individual movement recording are not proposed for sheep, whereas cattle and deer are already in NAIT and require tags and movement recording.
BLNZ manager technical policy Chris Houston says its case effectively follows work Ospri and the Red Meat Profit Partnership began in developing and trialling electronic Animal Status Declarations (eASDs). These are an alternative to the paper based records now required to accompany mobs of all species of stock when moved.
“eASDs proved extremely popular with farmers and meat processing companies in the pilot projects and we envisage that for farmers a mob movement record for sheep would essentially look and feel the same as completing an eASD,” Houston told Rural News.
But Federated Farmers meat and fibre chair Miles Anderson believes sheep farmers would be wary of entering NAIT because of issues now faced by dairy and deer farmers.
He says while Feds doesn’t oppose mob-based monitoring of sheep for biosecurity purposes, he doesn’t think NAIT is ready to take another layer of monitoring.
“Implementation and education on NAIT are lacking. We know a system that actually works would mitigate most of the non-compliance issues that currently exist in the NAIT system,” said Anderson.
Dairy and deer farmers have loudly voiced their criticisms of the system, ie clunky and hard to navigate, requires expensive technology, and relies on connectivity that often fails or is non-existent in rural areas.
Anderson says over the last six months NAIT and Ospri have been addressing farmers’ usability problems.
BLNZ agrees most sheep farmers are wary of sheep entering NAIT because many believe this would require electronic eartags and individual movement recording, as now happens for cattle and deer.
“This is not proposed for sheep,” said Houston.
He says sheep farmers also feel the issues with NAIT as it is now constituted must be sorted out before it gets a bigger workload.
“We expect significant progress will be made on ‘making NAIT better’ prior to any decision about introducing sheep into NAIT. And we envisage something much more simple for a farmer to achieve because it doesn’t involve putting in ear tags and electronic scanning of them.”
Houston anticipates it would take at least 18 months before ‘sheep in NAIT’ or ‘eMob’ may happen. The business case also needs to stack up and receive farmer support.
“Many of the biggest issues currently associated with NAIT, like ear tag retention, failure to read and record individual electronic numbers accurately, simply will not apply to this idea,” he said.