'NAIT tags not the answer'

AL WILLIAMS
Last updated 10:10 18/10/2012
barry everett
Tags unreliable: Barry Everett ... Micro chipping a far better option than sub-standard NAIT tags.

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A South Island farmer has added his voice to those of others who have criticised the new National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) scheme.

Barry Everett says the NAIT tagging system is not up to standard and has not been fully researched.

He runs cattle on 25 acres near the Levels Raceway, north of Timaru.

Instead of the tagging system cattle could be microchipped, he says.

The electronic animal tagging system was launched by National Animal Identification and Tracing in July.

Cattle and deer have to be electronically tagged, replacing paper records, under the new system.

The system is designed to create a platform for industry and consumers to track meat products from the pasture to the plate.

But Everett says the system has created problems.

"The biggest problem with them is some of them do not scan; it hasn't been researched properly, I can't believe they haven't done more about it."

Everett believes cattle could be microchipped.

"If you can chip cats and dogs I think you should be able to chip cattle.

"If you chip them in the bone in between their ears the chip won't move."

NAIT chief executive Russell Burnard said there were four potential technologies for tracing animals: Low frequency RFID (radio-frequency identification) ear tags, high frequency RFID ear tags, micro chips and bolus placement.

A comprehensive review of international cattle identification and tracing systems was prepared by MAF - now the Ministry of Primary Industries - in 2009.

Burnard said external technologies, such as ear tagging was favoured for animals entering the food chain.

"Methods that require internal placement run the risk of causing a food contamination issue which would mean the farmer would be unable to sell the meat from his or her animals.

"The decision was made to select low frequency technology for the NAIT scheme, RFID ear tags, because part of NAIT's brief from its major shareholders (government and industry) was to select proven and commercially available technology," he said.

"Low frequency is still the only proven and commercially available RFID technology for animal identification.

"There still is no proven range of ultra high frequency (UHF) animal tags commercially available locally or internationally.

"NAIT, on behalf of farmers, needs to ensure performance and retention standards are met in the practical application of RFID technology for the NAIT scheme," Burnard said.

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