Understanding NAIT system fundamentals
The arrival of cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis has thrown a spotlight on the national animal tracing system NAIT. NAIT has provided support to government for traceback of the disease and the identification of animal movements and locations alongside cohort animals and premises that may be infected. OSPRI CEO Michelle Edge answers some of the fundamental questions about NAIT.
Why does New Zealand need a traceability system?
Customers are increasingly seeking more information about the products they are sourcing and the standards and production processes that apply from farm to retail. New Zealand’s export markets for livestock and livestock products are sensitive to product integrity standards including aspects of disease status, disease control, product sourcing and the ability to demonstrate wholesome and safe products that are free from chemical treatments, contaminants and residues.
Countries such as Brazil, Canada, the European Union, Japan, South Korea and Australia have led the development of modern traceability frameworks in the livestock and food product sectors. Certainly, exotic and endemic diseases, coupled with risks of contamination and residue, have driven the need to ensure effective traceability systems underpin food safety standards in an increasing number of nations.
Traceability systems are a key component of the broader biosecurity framework for the management of disease and food safety risks to food products resulting from the animal and plant supply chain. Livestock traceability systems, such as NAIT, provide not only trace-back ability, but contain critical information to inform decision making for the wider animal health and product integrity management, disease control and related biosecurity activities that occur when or if a disease or food safety risk is identified.
In general, traceability data facilitates the ability for better disease and food safety management and control, trace to source or origin, and therefore enables decision making towards mitigating the impacts of adverse biosecurity and food safety risks or events on industry and the economy. Impacts of these types of events can include human health risks, economic impacts, and risks to market access, customer assurance and maintaining disease free status.
NAIT provides this system for New Zealand individual animal (cattle and deer) identification and is designed to record birth, movement and death events of livestock through identification devices and records of the persons in charge of animals and the premises in which the livestock is held.
How does NAIT support a response to a disease outbreak?
In an emergency disease response, rapid tracing of livestock movements and livestock at known locations is critical. The faster animals can be traced, accounted for at specific locations and the faster any related cohort animals and/or premises can be identified, the greater the chances of quantifying and controlling a disease outbreak and minimising the costly effects of the disease on industry and the supply chain.
In the recovery phase of a disease response, typically occurring post the initial emergency response effort, decisions relating to animal health monitoring, testing, treatment and vaccination rely on ongoing traceability system surveillance support and reporting, including animal and premises surveillance and monitoring, assignment of risk statuses to premises and animal(s), recording of testing results by premises and animal(s), monitoring treatment, slaughter or vaccination issuance and monitoring of movement control.
How is the data from traceability systems like NAIT used to support disease response efforts?
The data reported by NAIT has been provided to support the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) as the lead agency for disease response activity. On a daily basis, the NAIT system processes around 27,000 transactions with 3,000 of these representing movements from saleyard, 10,500 to processing and 13,500 farm to farm.
In regards to the Mycoplasma bovis disease response, the NAIT system has supported MPI to identify and isolate affected animals and control the spread of the disease and to undertake decision making in the field in relation to movements of animals combined with veterinary assessment and testing regimes. As part of this support since last July, over 1000 NAIT reports have been provided to MPI towards the support of the response analysis and for the determination of the field investigations, treatment issuance, movement control arrangements and general management of the disease response.
Where can farmers get help with NAIT?
All herd owners are legally required to tag animals, register with NAIT and record every animal movement. The NAIT system can and does deliver the outputs and reporting required, provided data is entered to the system for each and every animal movement by required users. NAIT will continue to inform government and industry for animal health control and surveillance, particularly in areas where disease is present and where movement controls apply.
Tips and advice on how to use the NAIT system – in particular, how to tag, register and record are available at here.