Enhancing biosecurity through consignment traceability

Date 27 April 2018

The recently released NAIT Review Report makes a number of recommendations on improving New Zealand’s traceability framework. OSPRI Chief Executive Michelle Edge discussed the concept of consignment traceability and its role in supporting for disease surveillance and disease response.

With the issue of Mycoplasma Bovis, it has been re-affirmed that animal identification and traceability, as foreseen with the development of NAIT, is an essential component for disease surveillance and disease response.

As a support system to the wider biosecurity response framework, NAIT Limited has been providing animal, cohort, premises and movement data to Ministry for Primary Industry’s (MPI) disease investigators since Mycoplasma Bovis was first diagnosed. We are continuing to report to MPI to support their ongoing surveillance and movement control actions with more than 3000 reports provided on animal movements, history and locations.

Modern countries established their traceability schemes with the commencement of the declaration of presence of animals at a farming location and registration of those premises involved in farming activities. One issue for New Zealand, as described in the NAIT Review Report, is that the registration of premises is voluntary and not covering the range of livestock production animals required to establish the size and nature of the national herd and its locations, as opposed to the overseas examples.

When examining overseas examples, it is observed that most countries have established consignment traceability through movement or livestock passport declaration mechanisms and utilized these for tracing movements, alongside slaughter surveillance for the identification of diseases either endemic or exotic.

Then, these countries have built on the consignment traceability systems with individual animal RFID identification for animal level traceability and surveillance of diseases throughout the lifetime of the animals. In New Zealand, however, movement declarations such as the Animal Status Declaration (ASD) have remained focused solely on animal status (e.g. bovine TB) and are not typically seen as a traceability tool for livestock.

The NAIT review considered that to enhance whole of supply chain traceability, the ASD would be also utilized for traceability purposes in conjunction with NAIT. This would provide data on physical movements for verification, data for additional movements to enhance recording, as well as facilitate traceability of other species that are not part of NAIT, which remains a current gap. This is especially applicable in the event of a cross-species biosecurity incursion where paper forms would be the only option for investigators to trace movements of these animals.

Mycoplasma Bovis is a cattle disease, and for this, NAIT provides the individual animal traceability framework for cattle and deer in New Zealand. However in the event New Zealand faced another livestock disease that impacted other species, such as sheep, a clear gap remains in terms of traceability capabilities.

Implementation of consignment traceability through ASD as a traceability tool for all livestock species that is integrated with NAIT would strengthen New Zealand’s biosecurity and traceability capability. Ensuring the ASD form is provided in triplicate to enable farmer supplier – to transporter – to receiver and identification of forms with unique numbering would also enhance the integrity of the consignment declarations. The addition of slaughter surveillance data at the national level would ensure identification of livestock diseases coupled with the ability to trace the animal back to source and any related cohort animals contributing to disease spread.

The NAIT Review Report recognizes that the ASD, if linked with NAIT, could provide the information relating to sending movements and also address the recommendation to move to receiver only transactions through NAIT. If these tools were linked this would form an enhanced national platform for livestock traceability. Moreover, it would be then possible to verify records of NAIT movements, using the secondary mechanism of consignment declaration. Without this secondary dataset, field inspection is the only way to actually confirm the real movement occurring against that recorded in the NAIT database, which is extremely costly.

An even better advancement would be the introduction of the electronic ASD which OSPRI has been trialing within the industry with the support of the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP). The alignment of eASD, ASD paper forms and NAIT would minimize the time inputs for farmers in creating their sending movements, and would provide the required verification and status information for meat processors to address their customer requirements and standards.

As an alternative to aligning the ASD with NAIT as a traceability mechanism for the majority of livestock species, might be the creation of an alternative livestock health declaration that supports, and is aligned with, the national traceability system for biosecurity management in livestock industries. A national animal health declaration coupled with NAIT would also facilitate national management of livestock diseases by status declaration, where these issues are currently managed individually by the farmers as opposed to under a national pest/disease management programme. Examples might include TSE, Johne’s, BVD, brucellosis, theileria, and potentially mycoplasma bovis, where ongoing surveillance and management will be required.

Establishing a national traceability platform that aligns individual animal and consignment traceability through ASD, NAIT and further linkage with carcase disposition data would enable better supply chain decision making and delivery of customer standards for product sourcing. Crucially it would also enhance New Zealand’s biosecurity response and readiness and enable strategic determination for future industry and government animal health programme investment.

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