Calving farmer staunch on lifetime animal traceability

Date 24 July 2020

Manawatu farm manager Paul Mercer is well into calving this season. When it comes to NAIT, Paul keeps detailed records of new-born calves using modern and traditional methods.

What is your set-up?

I manage around 370 cows over a 147-hectare dairy platform near Palmerston North.

How many NAIT locations?

We’re on just one.

Are you the PICA for the farm?

No, but as the farm manager I’m a PICA delegate.

How many calves are you expecting?

We’re planning for over 400 this season.

Do you have a tagging system for identifying calves at birth?

We use brass tags in the first few days as an identifier to match them to their mothers; we’ll then tag them with Allflex birth tags soon after. We have several ways of capturing the calf’s details. The staff on-farm use WhatsApp to capture info when a calf is born, and this can be readily shared in real-time, so everyone knows what is happening. On wet days, we still use the old-style calving notebook.

How do you register your calves in NAIT?

As soon as we tag them with birth tags, we’ll record the tag number and all the relevant details using the MINDA live app on my cellphone and this information synchs through into NAIT.

How do you know the records are in NAIT?

I’ll usually get an email notification from the NAIT system about two hours after they’ve been recorded in MINDA - confirming the calf’s registration is now in the NAIT system.

How do you manage tag retention?

If one of the animals loses a tag in the field, we’ll retag with a replacement NAIT tag and take a picture of the new tag using a cellphone. This way, we can record the new tag number and match it to the missing tag number in NAIT.

Do you sell the calves?

Yes, we do. Most of our calves go to saleyards and some are reared and contracted for Wagyu beef.

NAIT tips for farmers?

Just get on and do it. If you are calving, register the calves’ tag number in MINDA or NAIT and declare the month, year of birth and the NAIT location number [birthplace].  Remember too, if you’re finishing calves for beef to change the animal production type from dairy- you can do this now using the MINDA Live app.

How important is lifetime animal traceability?

It’s essential to be able to trace animals back to their original source. If we have a biosecurity incursion or we’re managing a livestock disease outbreak like M.bovis, NAIT helps us work out where the animals have been and the other animals they have come into contact with, and what we need to do to prevent the spread. Lifetime animal traceability protects our business and builds New Zealand’s biosecurity capability.

Watch Paul meeting his NAIT obligations in this video case study

More information

Paul handling NAIT tags website

Farm Manager Paul Mercer