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Deer Farmers Frustrated Over Hiccups In Tracing System

Monique Steele, Journalist

Deer farmers have raised concerns over the country's animal tracing software with some facing charges for not registering their animals when they have actually done so.

Farmers are legally required to tag and register livestock through the National Animal Identification and Tracing system (NAIT).

Deer Industry New Zealand (DINZ) said some of its farmers had ongoing issues with the NAIT software, when animals they had registered showed up as unregistered.

Chair Mandy Bell said if incorrect data went through to the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), farmers could be charged for non-compliance.

She said despite efforts to resolve the issue, there was a disconnect between the animal disease management agency OSPRI and MPI.

"There's a disconnect in that when the inaccuracy is noted, it will be seen on the Ospri system and they will notify MPI. MPI will then send a charge out to the farmer because an animal might be deemed to not have a tag, when actually it has happened on farm - but the system is not recording this as it should do," Bell said.

"The frustration for the farmer [is] in putting numbers on and tags in and then they're not holding.

"The Deer Farmers' Association [of New Zealand] have been doing a great job at working with farmers and with OSPRI to get this solved. But what we need is a systems change and that is something that Ospri is working on, but it's just not here today."

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The chair of DINZ's South Canterbury and North Otago branch, Mark Tapley, said more than a handful of farmers raised the issue at a meeting just last month.

Meanwhile, OSPRI said it was investigating the issue.

Head of traceability, planning and integration Clifton King said it was a complex process as they had to understand how farmers used NAIT software alongside other third-party software - and how they interacted with each other.

"In December 2023, a complaint was made by a deer farmer who has a perceived issue around animal registration in the NAIT system," King said.

"The OSPRI Traceability team is working closely with this farmer to investigate the issue which included an on-farm visit to walk through the registration process from start to finish.

"This will take some time. We will share our findings with the farmers and industry in due course."

King said OSPRI was not aware of other livestock sectors impacted by registration issues.

He said the investigation was helping OSPRI understand how to improve the advice it gives to farmers around registrations.

It comes amid a triennial review of the traceability scheme and OSPRI's governance set to begin this month.

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