16 Dec 2010

Animal tracing scheme critic renews call for deferral

1:51 pm on 16 December 2010

Federated Farmers dairy chair has renewed his call for the much-debated national animal identification and tracing system (NAIT) to be deferred.

The livestock tracing scheme is designed to limit the trade impact of a disease outbreak by allowing stock to be traced back to their home farms, and is being made compulsory for cattle at the end of next year, and deer the year after.

Legislation to set up the legal framework for the system was introduced to Parliament this week and is now before the primary production select committee.

A critic of the NAIT scheme and its compliance costs, Federated Farmers dairy chair Lachlan McKenzie says a voluntary system would help iron out any inevitable kinks, reduce the technological risks and give farmers time to adapt.

Lachlan McKenzie is also questioning the system's use of low frequency electronic ear tags, which he says is old technology and will be out-performed within 10 years by ultra-high frequency tags.

However the NAIT organisation's chief executive, Russell Burnard, says ultra-high frequency tags do not yet have any track record with livestock and the organisation is reluctant to endorse the technology until it is proven.

He says low-frequency ear tags are the industry standard for the electronic tracing of livestock, and comply with international guidelines.

Mr Burnard says the livestock tracing legislation will allow NAIT to amend standards quickly as technology progresses.

Meanwhile, Lachlan McKenzie says he doesn't believe the scheme is a fait accompli, despite it passing its first hurdle in Parliament with unanimous support, and Federated Farmers will be taking its concerns now to the primary production select committee.