Deer industry ready for NAIT

The New Zealand deer industry is hoping for a smooth transition into NAIT with the species set to join the traceability scheme next month.

While there would be inevitable teething issues Deer Industry New Zealand chief executive Mark O'Connor felt the benefits of NAIT outweighed the cons.

"I think there are a number of deer farmers around the country that have recognised that there is an opportunity for better productivity by knowing more about individual animals and their performance within a herd," he says.

He believes the industry is well placed for when deer come into the scheme on March 1.

Most deer farmers have taken the time to understand it to the extent they have formed an opinion of it, he says.

"It's been such a long time coming that awareness is really high."

The industry had the advantage of having cattle come into the scheme first and come up against startup issues. While there were hiccups, none of them had been terminal.

One of the biggest concerns deer farmers had was that the information collected from the NAIT tags was used by those companies the producers were supplying to.

"We've sought assurances from NAIT that they are not just asking farmers to put tags in and then not using the information. That would just be a very frustrating waste for all concerned," Mr O'Connor said.

There was also confusion over a levy being paid. When the deer was slaughtered, there was a small cost to the finisher paid to NAIT. This cost is $0.069/kg carcass weight.

The rules for deer in NAIT are similar to those for cattle. Any deer moving off a farm will need to have a NAIT tag.

Once the scheme is up and running it is the breeder who would have to apply the tag.

Fallow deer were exempt from the tagging rules because of animal husbandry reasons. Those farmers with fallow deer would need to record their stock numbers annually, report movements and report the figures to NAIT.

Those deer travelling to a trophy farm to be shot as a trophy were also excluded.

NAIT chief executive Russell Bunard said they were as ready as they could be. They had also learned from the experience of when cattle were brought into NAIT and the teething problems experienced.

"The good thing about deer is that many deer farmers also have cattle, so this is less of a big jump for them," he said.

Fairlie deer farmer Hamish Orbell has been using RFID tags for three years on his property. This was done to record the performances of his stags.

He said March 1 would be a day like any other. It would be interesting to see if there were teething problems with the system.

"In five years' time we'll all look back at it and wonder what we were all complaining about," he said.

The Timaru Herald