FAQ's - National Animal Identification and Tracing

What is NAIT?

NAIT is primarily a data recording and collection system. Cattle and deer will be identified with electronic ear tags that have unique identifiers. Specific information related mainly to individual animal movements will be collected and held on a central database.

What species will NAIT cover?

NAIT will apply only to cattle and deer at this stage. The system, however, will be designed to allow other livestock sectors to be added when and as appropriate in the future. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry considers that if sheep were to be included at some time in the future, it would likely be at a flock or mob level rather than at an individual animal level. It believes the addition of any other species to NAIT should only be considered once the system is up and running for cattle and deer.

Why do we need NAIT?

NAIT will safeguard farmers' incomes by protecting New Zealand's excellent animal health reputation in overseas markets, meeting growing consumer expectations for traceable food products and by enhancing biosecurity.

How will NAIT improve biosecurity?

New Zealand's current animal tracing capability is insufficient to manage a major livestock disease outbreak. NAIT will enable the location of cattle and deer to be traced much faster than existing manual systems, and will provide more reliable and up-to-date information on animal movements. This will improve biosecurity surveillance and response efficiency.

How will NAIT safeguard market access?

New Zealand faces losing access to, or share of, premium markets if it cannot offer commercial assurances that its biosecurity systems are supported by whole-of-life traceability. There is high likelihood that lifetime traceability of livestock will be a condition for commercial access to markets in the future. Many of New Zealand's major trading partners have already adopted such systems.

This trend is supported by the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health), which has called for progressive implementation of animal identification and traceability systems worldwide.

New Zealand is lagging behind its trading competitors in adopting lifetime traceability of livestock. Our competitors are poised to benefit at New Zealand's expense if we do not take steps to improve animal identification and tracing in this country.

NAIT will also help New Zealand demonstrate to trading partners that all potentially infected animals during a disease outbreak have been contained. For example, New Zealand would be able to assure importers that an outbreak had been isolated to a particular location or region.

The quicker New Zealand can provide such assurance, the quicker it will enable the lifting of any trade restrictions imposed as a result of an outbreak.

Will NAIT enable producers to get higher premiums in overseas markets?

Yes, for certain meat products that are responsive to traceability features.

Does NAIT have any other benefits?

Yes, the introduction of NAIT will allow farmers to take advantage of the farm management benefits of RFID (radio frequency identification device) technology. See "What are the 'on-farm' benefits?" The beef and dairy industries will also gain a number of additional benefits, including the ability to undertake more efficient risk management programmes and to better manage endemic animal diseases.

Have the benefits of NAIT been quantified?

Yes. A conservative cost-benefit analysis has been completed in accordance with Treasury guidelines. It assesses the NAIT system would generate annualised benefits of around $38 million per year.

New Zealand faces huge costs if it fails to meet international expectations for animal identification and tracing. The experiences of Brazil illustrate this point. The European Union banned Brazilian beef imports in February 2008 due to deficiencies in Brazil's tracing systems. Within a matter of weeks, the cost of the export ban had risen to US$300 million.

In 2001, a Reserve Bank/Treasury study calculated the cost of a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak to be $6.1 billion, rising to $10.65 billion over two years. While NAIT would not reduce the likelihood of occurrence of this disease, it would reduce the impact by 4 to 10 percent, according to estimates from MAF Biosecurity New Zealand.

What's wrong with existing animal and tracing systems in New Zealand?

New Zealand has a number of animal identification systems that are fine for their own purposes, such as controlling bovine tuberculosis. However, it is clear that these systems will not meet New Zealand's requirements for animal identification and tracing in the future. Some rely on paper-based records. Many operate at a herd rather than an individual animal level. Data cannot be shared. Furthermore, current systems do not hold all the required information to facilitate animal tracing and identification on a national basis.

Why should farmers contribute to NAIT?

NAIT provides insurance to protect the future viability of every farming business involving NAIT species. While the benefits may not appear year after year as a cash return, NAIT will protect New Zealand farmers from some of the major consequences of a biosecurity incident. It will also protect access to higher-value markets.

How much will NAIT cost and who will fund it?

The development of the core NAIT system will require capital expenditure of up to a maximum of $7.02 million and operating expenditure of $8.67 million. The stage two business case, however, has identified further possible savings that will be explored as development proceeds. The Government has agreed to fully fund the capital cost and to cover the majority of the operational funding for the development period.

Annual operating costs of the core NAIT system once it is up and running will be around $6 million, which will be funded by a mixture of Crown funding and new levy contributions from cattle and deer farmers. The expectation is that the levies will amount to around $1 per animal each year.

Will farmers have any additional costs?

Yes. The other main cost will be electronic ear tags. The tag cost per animal will be around $2 or $3 more than what farmers are paying at the moment for non-electronic ear tags.

What about costs for saleyards and processors?

Saleyards (including stock and station agents who act on behalf of farmers) and processors will have to invest in tag readers to record individual animals entering their premises. In addition, they may need to modify their premises and amend their processes and management systems.

One-off costs for New Zealand's 45 processors to set up for NAIT are estimated to be $1.2 million in total. For New Zealand's saleyards and stock and station agents, set-up costs will be an estimated $6 million in total. Annual costs for saleyards and processors are estimated to be $0.25 million and $1.3 million respectively.

How has NAIT responded to concerns raised by farmers and other stakeholders?

The NAIT Governance Group has worked hard to ensure that costs are as low as possible, for example, by exploring running the system through an existing organisation rather than as a stand-alone entity. It has introduced an exemption period for capital stock that will make it easier for farmers to transition to the new system. It has also simplified the obligations for organisers of agricultural shows. Furthermore, it has ensured that personal information held by NAIT will be protected by strict rules.

How have privacy concerns been addressed?

There will be legal protections in place to ensure that use of information in NAIT conforms with the principles of the Privacy Act. In addition, any access, use or disclosure of NAIT data will be limited to stated purposes in the NAIT legislation.

A Select Committee process will provide additional opportunity for interested parties to have their say about how NAIT data can be used.

What consultation has taken place?

Industry stakeholders have been involved in the development of NAIT since the beginning of the project. An industry discussion document on enhancing animal tracing systems in New Zealand was released in 2005. This was followed in June 2008 by the release of a public consultation document, which provided interested parties the opportunity to comment on the proposed design.

In addition to formal consultation, the project has obtained stakeholder feedback from:

  • a programme of face-to-face engagement with farmers and industry organisations, including public meetings, presentations and attendance at agricultural shows and other public events;
  • an independent market survey to gauge the level of support among farmers.

What do farmers currently think about animal traceability?

There is currently a high level of support/acceptance for the project among farmers, based on the results of a comprehensive stakeholder engagement and communications programme. An independent farmer survey undertaken in early 2009 showed that, on average, farmers are supportive of a mandatory traceability system, with a far greater number expressing support (58%) than those against it (17%).

Why can't NAIT be voluntary for farmers?

Under a voluntary system, identification and movement information about cattle and deer nationwide would be incomplete and less accurate compared with a mandatory system. The end result would be higher costs and a slower response in the event of a biosecurity outbreak. This in turn would cause a slower return to market post-response and therefore a far higher impact on overall costs to the industry. A voluntary system would also lack credibility among key trading partners.

What requirements will be imposed by NAIT?

Farmers will need to:

  • ensure all cattle and deer are tagged with a NAIT-approved tag;
  • record all animals onto the NAIT database either themselves or through a third-party;
  • notify NAIT of all farm-to-farm animal movements;
  • notify NAIT when animals are received from saleyards;
  • pay NAIT levies, as outlined above.

Processors will be required to record the receipt of all cattle and deer into their processing facilities, and provide the date of slaughter and other details for electronic transfer to the NAIT database.

Saleyards will need to record the receipt and dispatch of all cattle and deer and provide the date of transactions and other details (e.g. ownership transfer and individual animal ID) to the NAIT database.

Transport operators are expected to have only minimal obligations under the initial rollout of NAIT. There will be further discussions with the industry to determine what and if anything needs to be done by transporters. To discourage deliberate non-compliant behaviour, it is proposed that it will be an offence to knowingly move an animal that hasn't been tagged correctly from a property. The general view is that the farmer moving the stock will have primary responsibility for compliance, but that all participants in the livestock industry should contribute to managing risks that are posed by their activities.

How will NAIT be governed?

The newly-formed Stakeholder Reference Group (replacing the NAIT Governance Group) will elect a board of directors to head an establishment company. The board will oversee a programme of work to establish all the functions and infrastructure required to operate NAIT.

The Stakeholder Reference Group will decide the ultimate form of the long-term entity to run the NAIT system. In order to save costs, the preference is for NAIT to be run by an existing organisation rather than as a stand-alone entity.

Will there be a transition process between the current and new systems?

Yes. Implementation of the NAIT system is intended to be a staged process. The system will operate initially on a voluntary basis in order to bed down systems and processes until it is regulated, expected to be in 2012.

I'm a small-block owner with one or just a few cattle - how will I be affected by NAIT?

You will have the same NAIT obligations as owners/persons in charge of larger herds.

I'm a farmer - how will I get my information onto NAIT?

You will be able to access NAIT online via a computer, via your approved third-party service provider, or by telephoning the NAIT helpdesk (there will be a small charge for this service).

Do all animals need to be tagged?

Under the NAIT proposal, only cattle and deer will have to be tagged. NAIT will require:

  • alll cattle and deer will have to be tagged with a NAIT-approved tag (which will replace the secondary tag under current official animal identification schemes);
  • animals to be tagged within 180 days of their birth;
  • animals to be tagged prior to their first movement from the farm, regardless of age. The only planned exception is for calves less than 30-days-old going direct to slaughter.

Once NAIT becomes a mandatory requirement, there will be an exemption of three years from tagging capital stock that does not leave the farm.

Do I need to tag bobby calves?

Existing commercial arrangements are considered adequate for traceability of calves less than 30-days-old going directly to slaughter. Such animals will not be recorded on NAIT as any biosecurity/infectious disease risk from these calves is minimal. However, this exemption will not apply to calves going to other properties and calves 30 days or older.

What is RFID and how will it work with NAIT?

Radio frequency identification devices (or RFIDs) are electronic tags that emit radio signals that can be read by special readers, therefore eliminating the need for manual data entry. NAIT RFID tags will contain only an identification number. Any information about the animal will be stored on a database and linked to the animal's RFID identification number.

RFID is used in other countries with animal tracing systems and will be a key component of the NAIT system. NAIT RFID tags for cattle and deer will be introduced via existing official animal identification schemes.

Can all information stay with the animal i.e. on an embedded microchip?

No. It is currently more efficient to record and modify data in a database than on individual tags. In addition, if information is able to be recorded onto the tag there is a greater risk that the information could be tampered with.

Can I use tail tags?

No, not as official NAIT tags.

What happens to the tags when the animal dies/is slaughtered?

Most overseas animal identification systems use the unique identifiers only once to maintain the integrity of the system. Re-use of tags for some animal species may be considered as a future enhancement, but will not be initially permitted under NAIT.

Have farmers and processors had any input into the system design?

Yes. Farmers and processors are currently represented on the project by their respective industry organisations, which have participated in project development and all major decisions.

What are the on-farm benefits of RFID technology?

The on-farm benefits include accurate recording of production details about individual animals and using this data to support management decisions. The uses may include regularly weighing animals to sell at optimum individual weight, tracking treatments, recording breeding information, and measuring milk production. RFID also supports automatic drafting out of animals that meet pre-defined conditions. To gain on-farm benefits, farmers will need to make further investment in technology (for example, RFID readers and software).

How will NAIT fit with other official identification schemes?

NAIT tags will be incorporated as secondary tags under existing official identification schemes. The aim is to move to a single tag for all official purposes in the medium-term.

Will I still need to complete an Animal Status Declaration (ASD) form for animal movements?

Yes, in the short-term. However, the NAIT system will enable ASDs to be partially completed (using information held on NAIT) on-line.

How long is all this going to take?

Testing of the new system is intended to start in February 2011. NAIT is expected to be available for voluntary use from this date. Timelines for implementation are currently being updated.

Tagging of cattle with NAIT-approved RFID is already possible under the Animal Health Board and Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) programmes. Deer and cattle farmers will be able to sign-up to the NAIT system and start recording animal movement information as soon as the NAIT databases and interfaces have been built.

Why is it going to take so long?

While animals can already be tagged under existing schemes, the database and interfaces to support NAIT will not be in place for some months. In addition, changes to legislation will need to be proposed, drafted and taken through a Parliamentary Select Committee before supporting regulations can be prepared.

When should farmers start using NAIT-compliant RFID tags?

Farmers should consider early adoption of the tags, ie. before NAIT becomes mandatory. Early adoption will avoid the costs of re-tagging stock in the future. It is also a lot easier and safer to tag juvenile rather than fully grown animals.

How will you ensure NAIT stays up to date?

NAIT will only work if the information it holds is accurate and remains current. To maintain high quality data, a number of features and requirements have been built into the NAIT design, including:

  • making it a legal requirement for the submission of data within defined time periods;
  • keeping processes for farmers as similar as possible to those currently used;
  • providing a range of methods for uploading data;
  • keeping the costs of uploading data low. Use of technology to automate animal recording, thus reducing manual error.


Last Updated: 26 May 2011

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