Environment

Tracing our cattle and deer

One of the biggest changes to affect the farming sector for several years occurred in 2012.
  • Image, herd of deer grazing with snow capped mountain in background.

    A new biosecurity and food safety tracing scheme was introduced to track individual livestock movements. This is a new line of defence against potential spread of any animal disease outbreak.

    New biosecurity scheme for New Zealand

    The National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) Scheme became mandatory for cattle in July 2012, and for deer in March 2013. Under the scheme, farmers, lifestyle block owners, meat works, and livestock sale yards have adopted new systems and processes for tracing cattle and deer.

    With this tracing system, New Zealand can assure our overseas markets that a livestock disease can be quickly contained should a biosecurity incident or a food safety event occur. This is important, given how integral the agricultural industries that involve cattle and deer are to our economy. The cost to New Zealand of failing to meet international standards and expectations are shown by Brazil’s experience in 2008. Due to deficiency in Brazil's tracing system, the European Union banned beef imports from the country. Within weeks, the cost of the ban to the Brazilian economy was over US$300 million. 

    Economic value of prevention

    A joint New Zealand Reserve Bank and Treasury study, The macroeconomic impacts of a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak, published in 2003, estimated it would cost New Zealand over NZ$6 billion if there was a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak here. In just two years, these costs could increase to over NZ$10 billion.

    While the tracing system does not reduce the probability of an outbreak in New Zealand, the Ministry for Primary Industries calculates it would limit the impact by 4–10 percent.

    How NAIT works

    Under NAIT, all people in charge of cattle and deer must register themselves and their location with the scheme. Animals are tagged and traced using NAIT-approved radio frequency identification device tags, and registered in a national database.

    Calf in a paddock in Northland. Source: National Animal Identification and Tracing.  
    A calf with an RFID tag. (Photo: NAIT) 

    The database includes:

    • the animal’s location
    • changes in the animal’s location during its lifetime
    • contact details for the person in charge of the animal.

    Unlike other tracing systems around the world, New Zealand requires people in charge of animals to record and confirm both the sending and receiving movements of the animals.

    After 10 months of operation, over 60,000 people have registered with NAIT as a ‘person in charge of animals’. The scheme involves the dairy, beef, and deer industries and the Ministry for Primary Industries working in partnership. It will be fully implemented in three years.

    Source: National Animal Identification and Tracing Scheme

It would cost the New Zealand economy over $6 billion if there was an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease here.
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