A new system aimed at improving traceability in the livestock sector could be rolled out for cattle by the end of next year and in sheep, goats and pigs in 2020.
The Livestock Information Service (LIS), which will eventually replace current movement reporting systems such as the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS), will see all livestock data held centrally.
As well as giving farmers and processors accurate, real-time information about animals and their movements using electronic identification (EID) technology, it will also mean the industry and Government are better placed to respond in the event of a disease outbreak.
Funded by Defra with support from AHDB, the system is unique because it is has been developed by industry.
NFU president Minette Batters said it was a ‘great example of what we can achieve’ from cross-sector collaboration and will connect producers, markets and processors.
“I genuinely feel that a new multi-species traceability service that can securely share data with others in the supply chain will be totally transformational for the livestock industry,” she told a press briefing at the NFU in London on Monday.
“For the first time, the livestock sector will be able to lead the way in British agriculture, building a national system that provides powerful insight from which they can drive better profit through cost reduction, maximising price through provenance and securing the markets that best suit their products.”
There were still a number of details to be ironed out, including how farmers’ recording of animals would change day to day and how the English system would be linked with systems in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
It was thought plastic ear tags would continue to be used as they were now.
The Traceability Design User Group (TDUG) was formed in March 2017 and members include the NFU, Livestock Auctioneers’ Association, British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) Rural Payments Agency and Animal Health and Welfare Board for England.
BMPA chief executive Nick Allen said the system would provide consumers with ‘infallible’ traceability, boosting confidence and help the UK sell products around the world.
It would also increase efficiency, sending processors data in a more timely manner.
“Some plants are operating at a rate of 600 sheep per hour so it has to be very quick and this [LIS] will assist generally in increasing efficiency," added Mr Allen.
There was a level of control expected by trading partners and LIS would not only satisfy existing customers, but also help open up new markets as well, according to Marcus Bates, chairman of Export Certification.
AHDB international development director Phil Hadley used the example of Uruguay, where a similar EID system was introduced in 2006 and had been pivotal in securing new export opportunities.