By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Problems in the implementation of the livestock identification and traceability system, which was implemented countrywide on February 1, saw some cattle owners taking their cattle back to their farms due to lack of ear tags. The system, which is one component of the Farm Assured Namibia Meat (FanMeat) scheme was approved in 1999 by Cabinet and has been implemented since then in a phased manner. The traceability system requires all livestock owners to tag their livestock when leaving the farm, accompany all livestock leaving the farm with a departure register on which the ear tag numbers are correctly filled. It also requires them to make recordings on an arrival register at the final destination. This is a means of keeping records of individual cattle and groups of small livestock throughout the production chain from the farmers to the consumers. It is a quality assurance scheme developed by the meat industry to adhere to high quality standards required in the meat industry. The system was first implemented on trial basis in Khomas and Omaheke regions on October 1 last year, while throughout the country the scheme took off on February 1. The Namibia Agricultural Union in its weekly bulletin last week noted that the implementation did not happen very smoothly, as in some cases the farmers had to take their cattle back to the farm as the animals did not have ear tags. NAU also said it had information that some farmers have not yet re-registered for their brands, which should have been done two years ago. Poena Potgieter, chairman of the FanMeat Scheme, told New Era yesterday the number of farmers who have yet to order their ear tags is small. “The majority have received their ear tags,” he said, adding that farmers had since last August to order the tags for their animals. “They have been warned in good time that the scheme is coming and they should prepare themselves,” Potgieter added. It takes six week to two months to get the tags. “If a farmer ordered the tags at the end of January, then they are in trouble as they won’t be able to move their animals,” he said. Potgieter said some farmers had requested that the scheme be postponed but it was felt that it was best to implement the decision to tag animals as per agreement, on February 1. Due to the fact that consumers the world over are becoming increasingly aware of the need for safe foods and are becoming more sophisticated in their demands for assurances in this regard, a new approach by Namibia’s clients demands a holistic look at production and marketing with every link in the production chain. The FanMeat Scheme aims to provide full assurance of total quality control. Cattle ear tags are virtually permanent and are intended to remain in place for life; they are tamper-proof and cannot be removed unless they are broken/cut out or the ear is cut. The approximate price of an ear tag is N$6.20. The ear tag must carry the brand code that matches the first brand mark on the animal. If a farmer acquires an animal and it stays on his farm before re-sale, then, according to law, it must be re-branded. However, the original ear tag must remain in the animal’s ear for life and subsequent owners may not attach new ear tags. In addition to tracing the animals throughout the production chain, the system also aims at allowing for more accurate records of animal health interventions such as vaccinations. And in the case of disease outbreaks, the system would enable authorities to put in place intervention measures such as implementation of an animal’s disease strategic plan.
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