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ear tagsIn July 2012, the first stage of the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) scheme was introduced for all farmers in New Zealand – even lifestyle block owners.

The aim of the programme, as spelled out in an article by Iris Riddell for Lifestyle Block back in 2011, is to identify and trace individual animals via a unique identification number that can be electronically scanned in sale yards and abattoirs. While mostly connected with biosecurity issues for export markets, the scheme extends to all farmers, as an assurance that all animals are locatable and to avoid small producers “slipping thought the cracks” in the event of a nation-wide animal health scare such as foot and mouth disease or tuberculosis. All movements of animals onto or off farms have to be recorded in the NAIT IT system: if animals are sent to a NAIT-accredited sale yard or meat processor, they will record the movement for you.

In the early days of the scheme, animals were recorded using both Animal Health Board (AHB) and NAIT tags, but from this year, NAIT and AHB have merged into one entity, and the NAIT scheme is being delivered by the combined organisation.

There are some costs associated with the purchase of NAIT tags, and also a small levy payable on slaughter for each animal. The system is monitored, and animal owners can be fined for non-compliance. It is essential for all small farmers running cattle or deer to register themselves and the location of their property, and to tag their animals within 180 days of birth or before they are moved off the farm, whichever comes first. NAIT must also be notified within a week of animals being tagged. The levies allow NAIT to recover administration and management costs for the scheme, and are set on both the tags and for the slaughter of animals at a meat processing facility.

Levy rates were first set in July 2012 with a review date of 1 January 2014, but the high level of compliance in the first few months has allowed the review date to be brought forward, and reduced levies have been proposed for cattle from March 8, 2013: the cattle tag levy will reduce from $1.10 to $0.90 and the slaughterhouse levy from $1.35 to $1.00. It is likely that further reductions in levies will be made from January 2015.

The initial round of introduction covered only cattle. However, from March 1, 2013, deer are also part of the scheme. Because the deer component is new, the levy reductions do not yet apply to deer.

In the case of both cattle and deer, NAIT has established a process to deal with animals that are impractical to tag due to safety or other considerations: bulls and stags may come under this classification. This requires payment of an “impractical to tag” levy of $13 per head and the animal must also meet the criteria of being tagged with an official AHB bar-coded tag, and going direct to a meat processor.

Aside from the “impractical to tag” exemption, there are two other NAIT exemptions specifically for deer. Tags on trophy stags may be removed with written permission from NAIT if the stags are sent to a game estate or safari park. NAIT must be informed about the tag removal and the change of location. There is also a recognised management problem with tag retention in young fallow deer, and farmers can apply to NAIT for permission not to tag them. If these animals are moved to another farm, the person in charge of them must report the movement to NAIT, and an annual stock-take must also be supplied to NAIT.

Deer farmers will need an RFID ear tag applicator to correctly attach NAIT-approved RFID ear tags, as older models of applicators are not designed for RFID tags and can damage them.

For the full details from NAIT on complying with requirements for deer, see here. The requirements for beef and dairy farmers can be obtained here.


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