Forget mad cows, this time last week, the milk maid was practically frothing at the mouth. The MLA had told me there were new rules but – not to worry – just go ahead and break them.
Every time farmers sell cattle, we need to accompany them with National Vendor Declaration (NVD) forms. From October, those forms will include new sections on biosecurity and animal welfare.
We’re going to be selling cows again soon so I figured it was a good idea to get everything in order. I checked the NVD website auspiced by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and did the education segments but still couldn’t work out what else I needed to do. So I rang the MLA’s helpline.
What a mistake that was. To cut a long story short, I was referred to the Animal Health Australia biosecurity plan template. Jeepers. Among the dozens of requirements appears to be the tracking of all movements across the property and decontamination of vehicles as they move from one “zone” to another.
Despite bearing the Australian Dairy Farmers logo, it’s totally impractical for most dairy farms. Implementing it in the two weeks before it came into force? Absolutely impossible.
When I asked what the implications were of failing to take the recommended actions, I was told that I didn’t need to prove I’d done any of it – after all, the chances I’d be audited were pretty remote, David, the MLA man added. Just tick the box declaring I had. Righto. All fixed. Not.
When I rang last week, Dairy Australia said it was still working on a solution for dairy farmers. Now, thankfully, Dairy Australia’s manager of sustainability including food safety and integrity, Helen Dornom, has pulled off a minor miracle with this:
“Dairy farmers have been deemed to be LPA equivalent based on the dairy QA programs currently in place and underpinned by dairy licences and a legislated requirement for on-farm food safety programs.”
“As well, the dairy industry is developing a biosecurity app to provide dairy farmers with an easy to use program that will deliver a personalised biosecurity plan for each dairy farm. The LPA module provides a template for biosecurity plans, as does Animal Health Australia.
“The LPA template is based on the AHA template – and designed to help all livestock producers provide evidence of implementing the biosecurity requirements. The dairy app will be more customised to individual dairy farms.
“The industry is also developing a monitoring program for Animal Health and Welfare practices and has provided all dairy farmers with a copy of the Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for dairy farmers – distributed through dairy companies at the end of 2014.”
“The key message for dairy farmers is that they are exempt from the need to undertake the LPA modules (although they can do them if they want to) – and short-term, do not need to take any action as they are deemed to be LPA accredited. Dairy farmers will also be exempt from LPA audits once the dairy farmer’s PIC is linked to his/her current dairy licence number.”
So, in other words, don’t call MLA when the time comes to send your cows to market. Don’t worry about the big pack of info on its way to your mailbox right now. Don’t bother going to any of those biosecurity sessions around the country. It’s all been rather like a scene from ABC’s Utopia.
Of course, if you have beef cattle on your property, too, then that’s another matter. Panic.
UPDATE 22/09/17: A series of emergency meetings has yielded this clarification for dairy farmers by the MLA: https://www.mla.com.au/meat-safety-and-traceability/red-meat-integrity-system/red-meat-integrity-systems-newsletter/what-the-changes-mean-for-dairy-farmers/