The beef industry in the Republic of Ireland was able to protect itself from the unwanted economic damage that swamped its pig sector, after cancer linked dioxins were discovered in re-cycled animal feed, because of accurate feed delivery records and the ability to trace every animal fed and kept on an individual holding, says the National Beef Association.
And these same protection mechanisms also exist in the UK – although the discipline required to maintain them, and equally useful medicine records, on an almost daily basis can at times be considered an inconvenience by some farmers.
“There are occasions when routine record keeping appears to be nothing more than aggravation but the situation that developed in the Irish Republic in mid-December demonstrates the value of being able to avoid a devastating crash in consumer confidence through the painstaking filing of up to date feed and drug records by individual farmers,” explained NBA chairman, Christopher Thomas-Everard.
“As a result of being able to identify exactly which cattle were exposed to contaminated feed, and then being able to conduct dioxin analysis on carcases already moving through food distribution system, the Irish authorities were able to restrict beef sector damage to the destruction of only around 5,000 cattle from 21 finishing farms.”
“It is also noteworthy that as a result of scientific evidence provided from these analyses it was not considered necessary to re-call any Irish beef and the only adverse trade responses came as a result of tougher import inspection by Italy and precautionary moves against all meat from the EU by South Africa, Russia and China.”
The NBA notes that UK livestock farmers are required to keep a record of all feed deliveries, and also have to store for one year, a sample of each batch of dry concentrate feed delivered.
“This means that in the event of a feed contamination crisis like that just faced by the Republic of Ireland the ability already exists to thoroughly check which feed was delivered and what it contained,” said Mr Thomas-Everard.
“In addition to this every livestock farmer is required to keep medicines purchased and medicines administered records which cover the manufacturer’s batch number for each purchase and treatment while medicine administered records must also show the ear tag number of each animal every time it is treated.”
“These are subject to routine scrutiny by both Trading Standards and farm assurance inspectors which help to maintain public confidence.”
“However it is the efforts of farmers themselves which creates the bank of accurate records that covers and protects the beef sector and allows the level of antibiotics, and other residues used, to be easily checked, if needed and let us hope it never is.”
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