Farmers Transport and NAIT
A family transport company connects with National Animal Traceability inititative NAIT
Farmers Transport is a family-owned, rural transport business, established in 1966 as Hawke’s Bay Farmers Transport. Its main business is carting livestock and agricultural related goods.
It operates a fleet of around 120 trucks and has eight branches in the North Island, providing a single transporter option for movements of stock across regions.
CEO Jason Roebuck is proud that the company has an unblemished record for animal welfare. He says this is particularly significant considering the increasing importance placed on how animals are handled, with some end-customers now wanting detailed information on how long and how far animals have been transported.
NAIT is a government initiated animal identification scheme that links individual animals to people and properties, to enable faster and more accurate tracing of an animal from birth to death. It is not replacing the manual system of tracking animal movements known as Animal Status Declaration (ASD) forms but has been introduced to enhance New Zealand’s ability to respond quickly in the event of a biosecurity incursion or food safety scare. It is also to reassure international markets that New Zealand has a robust traceability system in place.
The NAIT scheme is being phased in gradually. All cattle had to be NAIT registered by June 1, 2012 and all deer by March 2013. A date for sheep registration has yet to be finalised.
The focus of the NAIT scheme is on cattle and deer, because they are already included in mandatory animal identification schemes under the National Bovine Tuberculosis (Tb) Pest Management Strategy.
The introduction of NAIT has been driven by a number of factors, including increasing global demand for high quality safe food, as well as global interest and concern around farming practices and animal welfare. Another factor is the need for New Zealand to protect its primary industry and catch up with the rest of the primary producing world in its traceability of products from farm to supermarket.
NAIT supporters say the scheme provides detailed information on animal information and movement that will enable a more rapid response in the event of a biosecurity threat.
At a practical level the scheme provides a more streamlined system of stock reporting for farmers and their customers.
Every animal in the scheme is fitted with a unique RFID (Radio Frequency Identification Device) tag. Details about each animal’s current location and the contact details of the person in charge of the animal (PICA) are stored on the NAIT database.
A portable RFID tag scanner is used to record movements of animals from one location to another and the scanned information is then transmitted to update the NAIT database.
Jason says NAIT offers an opportunity for better accountability in the way animals are handled in their movement from one location to the next. He says international customers want to know how long were the animals on the truck, what type of truck were they on, where did the truck go and how well were the animals treated while in transit? Marks & Spencer for example want to know that the lambs they buy spend no more than eight hours travelling by truck.
Farmers Transport is the first and one of the few livestock transport operators to become a NAIT Accredited Information Provider.
NAIT accreditation, combined with the informational capabilities that FROST provides (more on this in a moment), gives Farmers Transport a significant advantage in becoming a preferred transport supplier as the livestock industry moves closer towards total NAIT registration, and more of New Zealand’s overseas customers demand traceability of our primary products.
When stock is loaded onto a truck the Farmers Transport driver scans the animals in the race with a scanning wand. The information is downloaded into a data channel in the truck and wired back to Farmers Transport headquarters.
Although there is an extra cost for the service, it makes sense for Farmers Transport drivers to do the scanning because NAIT relies on internet updating for their information gathering.
Farmers can meet their NAIT obligations without having to do anything other than making sure each animal has a tag. It also means that farmers don’t have to be on hand when the animals are being loaded.
Five years ago, Farmers Transport set out to address the inefficiencies in their logistics with the development of an information management software system. The name of the system is FROST (Farmers Rural Operating System for Transport), and it was designed to help Farmers Transport make more economic use of resources (e.g. manpower, depot location, trucks) and become better organised within branches, across branches and across regions (logistics).
FROST does away with the old system of cross subsidization of smaller jobs with big jobs and now prices jobs based on their actual time, distance and load, etc. While this means farmers pay more for smaller jobs, it also means they get the full benefit of the reduced rate on the bigger jobs.
The system does away with driver paper-based reporting and replaces it with GPS information and in-truck data terminals that feed back into the central system.
FROST also provides an information source and reporting system on the movement of stock and other rural related goods for parties with a vested interest (farmers, meat companies, banks, agents, etc).
The details on animal movements captured in FROST and the individual animal information held within the NAIT database together provide a complete picture of an animal’s life history.
The benefits of FROST to various stakeholders are:
- Cost management and containment
- Reductions in operating kilometres, wages, and fleet size (through more efficient management)
- Ability to match off jobs inter-regionally
- Ability to give best price
- Greater capacity to get the job done when the client needs it done
- Scale allows management of large-scale movements (the big jobs).
- Knowledge that job cost is based on actual work/ distance/ load involved
- Competitive pricing
- Potential to save money on smaller jobs through planned load sharing.
- As for farmers – just a different destination.
- Easier to trade regionally and locally because of FT’s ability to manage movements into and out of farms, sale yards, meatworks, etc more efficiently.