NI's animal traceability system 'best in the world'
Northern Ireland has become a world leader where animal traceability is concerned, an expert has claimed.
Robert Huey, chief veterinary officer with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, said a new food animal information system will be rolled out over the coming months.
"It represents a £8.7m investment and should act to make life easier for farmers and help the food industry secure new export markets," he said.
Mr Huey made the comments while visiting this year's Castlewellan Show.
He said the new traceability system is unique, as it combines information on both animal movement and health.
"It is also farm-specific and relevant to all species: cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and poultry. A key aspect to the new measure is its relevance to the digital age," Mr Huey added.
"Once fully operational, farmers using electronic tags will be able to register new-born calves, for example, by simply pointing their smart phone at the animal's ear.
"All it will then take to complete the registration process is for the farmer to key in some additional pieces of information. This should make the all-important registration process more accurate and convenient."
Mr Huey believes the new traceability service will boost the prospects of Northern Ireland's food sector obtaining new export markets in countries around the world.
"The new traceability system puts us ahead of all our competitors. But it's the food industry's job to convert this potential into reality when it comes to driving exports," he added.
Meanwhile, in the show rings a record entry of livestock made sure that judging continued on well into the afternoon.
The dairy championship was won by Saintfield Holstein breeder David Dodd with his tremendous second calver Glenbrae Gerard Doris.
Judge Tom Kelly, from Drogheda in Co Louth, described her as an excellent example of the Holstein breed with tremendous dairy strength.
The cow is currently giving 52 litres of milk per day. She calved in February of this year.
The sheep inter-breed championship was won by Jim Aiken, from Dromara in Co Down, with his impressive Border Leicester shearling ewe.
Judge Alex Gray, from Lanark in Scotland, described his champion as a young animal with tremendous potential.
"She caught my eye immediately," he said. "We keep pedigree Texel, Suffolk and Charollais sheep at home. The strength of the sheep entry at Castlewellan this year was outstanding.
"But the Border Leicester shearling had three key attributes - outstanding breed character; tremendous balance and great poise," he said.