Rearing calves this Autumn?

Date 1 March 2019

Autumn is a busy period for sharemilkers with calving and weaning the focus. 50/50 sharemilker Richard McIntyre manages a dairy farm and drystock block as one NAIT location near Levin.

Whether buying or selling calves, it is important to know who you are trading with and to ensure the movement is recorded and confirmed in NAIT to ensure effective livestock traceability.

Sharemilkers are the minority when compared to fellow dairy and beef farmers but in terms of NAIT, they have undoubtedly a significant role.

“I think we definitely hold the key and set the benchmark for best practice traceability as we are obviously involved with animals from birth,” says Richard McIntyre.

He manages over 1000 animals, 450 dairy and 600 beef stock on his main farm with a supporting drystock block under one NAIT location in the Horowhenua.

Sharemilkers generally move calves on after a few days following birth, but Richard chooses to rear his for beef. He is preparing for around 150 calves this autumn.

“We have them for around three months, then we tag and register them in NAIT at the point of sale. I like to scan them as they’re going on the truck and we always ensure there is an animal status declaration form (ASD) completed with every transaction.”

He tags calves himself to ensure it is done correctly and from his experience, that isn’t always the case with calves he’s bought.

“It’s disappointing to see calves coming on-farm that aren’t tagged properly, this can create issues with tags falling out and undermines lifetime traceability. NAIT tags go in the right ear, the central-inner part between the two veins – the female portion is always outward.”

Richard uses an RFID scanner to tag his animals. “Every farmer should have a scanner. The newer wands are especially good. They connect directly to your smartphone and you can virtually scan all your animals and have them in NAIT before they go out the farmgate.”

Scanners also add value as an on-farm management tool for accurate weighing of calves and for reducing duplication, meaning less time spent in the office manually going through records.

Recording and confirming movements in NAIT is fundamental to the integrity of the NAIT online system and this should be done ideally within 48 hours of any animal transaction.

“I don’t believe animals going to the works are the biggest issue for NAIT. It’s more private sales and bull movements that need attention.

While farmers must take accountability, stock agents too had a responsibility to provide the NAIT numbers at the very time animals move off-farm.

“I believe stock agents could be doing more. You should have the purchaser’s NAIT number before the animals leave the farm. That way you can scan them onto the truck and complete the transaction on your phone there and then.

“Assuming the purchaser is registered with NAIT - why should there be a delay in the farmer getting the NAIT number?”

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Richard McIntyre, 50/50 sharemilker (image courtesy of NZ Dairy Exporter)