Case study on bulls: Richard Morrison

If you’re selling or leasing bulls this spring ‘understand the risks’ and know the animal’s history around movements and health, says Manawatu beef farmer Richard Morrison.
Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Bulls tend to move around a lot, so it is essential all movements are recorded and confirmed by the sender and receiver in the NAIT online system, within 48 hours of the bull relocating.

All movements must be accompanied with a completed animal status declaration form (ASD). This is necessary for evaluating the bull’s TB status and movement history.

“Know your customers too, their NAIT number, and their on-farm biosecurity,” says Richard.

Richard and brother William host spring bull auctions on their property with around 250 Hereford bulls sold to customers from throughout the country. They assign stock agents as their PICA delegates who ensure all NAIT transactions are recorded from their property and at the bull’s new location, even if it is only for a couple of months.

Their 1430 ha Marton property is two beef and sheep farms. They chose to register both farms as one NAIT location as permitted, being within a 10km radius of one another.

“We are aware this decision exposes both businesses to more neighbouring properties with bigger boundaries to manage, but that’s a risk we’re willing to accept and mitigate,” says Richard.

Bull breeders carry a unique risk profile, being subject to an intense testing regime for Bovine TB, theileria, Bovis Virus Diarrhoea (BVD) and parasites.

Under regular scrutiny, Richard has no qualms about the importance of livestock traceability.

“It comes with the territory. You’re always wary of minimising disease risks particularly in this current climate of Mycoplasma bovis. When sending bulls out, you want to avoid multiplying a potential issue.

“We’ve had good clients and friends asking to temporary lease a bull, but we aren’t willing to act ad hoc and expose ourselves to risk, creating dire implications for everyone.”

Farmers could do more when managing bull movements with the uncertainty around bulls being sourced from multiple locations and stock agents.

Beef farmers sending service bulls to dairy farms for mating must always record the movements in the NAIT system with the dairy farmers responsible for confirming the movement in their NAIT accounts - even if they use an information provider such as MINDA in the first instance.

The dairy farmer then becomes the PICA farmer for the service bull and must record future movements off their property in NAIT, for the purpose of effective traceability and disease management.

“There’s a big overlap with beef and dairy farmers when leasing heifer grazers or bulls for mating.”

Still, the importance of good biosecurity practices on-farm is resonating with most farmers and key to that was an effective animal traceability system.

“I don’t think farmers appreciated NAIT until now. We can see the benefits after the Mycoplasma. bovis outbreak. As food producers and sellers, it is in our interests to support NAIT and improve the accuracy of information held in the system.

“It provides a platform to leverage and pitch our products overseas and, to the top end of the market. There’s the provenance aspect too, our story, unique to New Zealand. We can’t claim to have these values without a traceability system like NAIT.”