Wairarapa lifestyler staunch on traceability

Date 6 March 2020

Wairarapa lifestyler and author Marnie Rutherford manages a small flock of sheep and one Hereford cow on her small Carterton property.

How long have you been a lifestyle farmer?

Around 17 years. I got interested in keeping cattle and sheep while travelling in New Zealand and working on farms. I started with a couple of heifers bought at a saleyard, and then got involved in breeding by accident when a neighbour’s Hereford bull jumped a few fences and mated with my two girls.  I also bred Dexter cattle for a while but have since downscaled to my current property at Carterton.

Why should lifestylers treat NAIT as a necessity?

It is going to become increasingly difficult to buy, sell and move any stock without a NAIT number, a tag and movement notification. MPI is escalating their compliance activities, so if you haven’t registered in NAIT and recorded those calf or weaner movements, a visit from MPI and possible fines are likely.  Regardless of the source, all calves should come with a tag, a NAIT number and a recorded movement; that builds traceability and lessens the risk of introducing animal-borne diseases on your property. The Mycoplasma bovis disease has shown that where livestock movements are recorded it helps immensely with a disease management response.

Being able to trace stock movements protects not just your own herd, but also that of your farmer neighbour – I think the ease livestock diseases can spread by animal contact through fences is underestimated. It might be simple as lice, or something much more costly, but it is up to you to take responsibility and look out for your animals and neighbours even if you only have one cow. Help keep diseases in check. Know where your stock came from, and have gone.

How do you meet your NAIT obligations?

I have just one Hereford cow currently registered in NAIT; I call her ‘Little Sweetie’ because she was so  little when I got her, and sweet natured. She is 18 months old now, but as she will be home killed my NAIT obligations are minimal. When I bred cattle, I sent them off to visit a bull each year which involved recording sending and receiving movements in the NAIT system when they went off-farm and came back eight weeks later, hopefully pregnant.

Why might lifestylers be less engaged with NAIT?

Most lifestylers don’t have the same commercial considerations, such as price per kilo at the works, as large-scale farmers do, so there is less incentive to record stock. The importance of recording livestock movements in NAIT and market access for our beef exports does not necessarily resonate with them. Animals on small blocks are often destined for homekill or used for paddock management, so may never leave the property at all; as they are not part of the commercial food chain, recording them may not be seen as a necessity.

Are lifestylers unaware of their NAIT obligations and the value of traceability?

From my experience, most lifestylers are aware of NAIT but may be unsure if it applies to them, and what they need to do about it. I started the Wairarapa Smallholders group to help local and new lifestylers become better equipped and informed about managing animals in general. The value of traceability is perhaps only seen as relevant for the public food chain, but if your plans change from having an animal homekilled to the disposal of stock either to the works or by private sale, that is problematic, if animals are not registered and movements not recorded.

Do you have message for lifestylers about NAIT?

Just do it! Get help, call the OSPRI Contact Centre, understand your obligations and avoid the fines. For me, keeping NAIT up to date is like paying the mortgage and rates, it’s just something you have to do.

More information

Marnie and little sweetie website

Marnie and 'little sweetie'