Avoid delays with correct NVDs

Posted 17/02/2023

Veterinarian Dr. Beren Matthews speaks on the importance of correct NVDs when sending your livestock for processing.

Key points

  • Processors regularly use the NLIS database to verify livestock information.
  • Errors on NVDs can have critical impacts to your livestock being processed and sold.
  • You must fill out your NVDs so they are clear, correct and complete – meaning there is no question about the validity of your information.

Key terms

  • National Livestock Identification System (NLIS): Australia’s legislated system for the identification and traceability of cattle, sheep and goats
  • Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) National Vendor Declaration (NVD):
    • Communicates the food safety and treatment status of every animal every time it moves along the value chain – between properties, to saleyards, to processors and beyond.
    • NVDs are a legal document that are key to Australian red meat’s traceability and market access. It is crucial that NVDs are filled out completely and accurately, to avoid integrity issues or an inability to sell or process livestock.

Dr Beren Matthews“It’s one of those unfortunate things where only a very small percentage of NVDs have an error, but those errors are critical and can mean your cattle won’t get processed on time. It becomes a hassle because no one in the supply chain wants their time wasted resolving an NVD because of an avoidable error.”

– Dr. Beren Matthews, On-Plant Veterinarian for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

NLIS for processing: how it’s used by regulators

Dr. Beren Matthews, On-Plant Veterinarian for the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), is stationed at a large processing plant in south-east Queensland. In his role as a regulator, he ensures livestock are suitable to be processed, which includes checking documentation and records, such as LPA NVDs and the NLIS database.

“We’re utilising the NLIS database to verify that producers are completing NVDs and NLIS transfers correctly, and processors are taking appropriate action if errors are identified. It’s the processor’s responsibility to have the day-to-day procedures in place for checking documentation, but we, as the regulators, do verification checks to ensure all the systems are working.”

Dr. Matthews plays a role in the certification of products for export, and the robust and reliable NLIS system ensures only livestock suitable for consumption are being presented for processing. The NLIS database provides a critical repository for the following checks:

  • checking residue statuses to ensure livestock that have been flagged in the NLIS system are appropriately managed in the supply chain
  • checking records, including animal data, have been uploaded in a timely manner
  • verifying records, including NVDs, maintain traceability of animals along the supply chain
  • checking the eligibility of animals for specific markets, such as European Union eligible animals.

Why accurate NVDs are vital

Completing certification checks relies on documentation being completed accurately by producers. If a processor or regulator takes note of a critical error on an NVD, such as missing information, incorrect headcounts or out-of-date documents, they cannot guarantee the integrity of the livestock or product for export.

Dr. Matthews makes particular note of cases where multiple people have completed one NVD. There have been instances of processors and regulators being given an NVD written in two pen colours with two sets of handwriting – with the differences typically shown on the tracking details and final headcount.

These documents must be filled out and signed only by the owner or person in charge of the livestock at the time of movement, with multiple people filling it out bringing the validity into question.

Transitioning to a faster, more efficient digital system with eNVDs

Dr. Matthews understands the hesitancy that some producers have in making the change from NVD books to eNVDs, particularly through lack of understanding of technical elements, internet connectivity issues and overall change to processes that work. However, he is optimistic that eNVDs are the key to an easier process of documentation and avoidance of critical mistakes.

“There’s substantive potential upside in the electronic transfer of information and the ability to ensure that documents don’t have errors in them, as well as making the information visible to all parties along the supply chain.”

Impacts for livestock processing and livestock grading

Incorrect completion of NVDs can have critical impacts on the processing of your livestock, and eventually the sale to both domestic and international markets.

“In some cases, like with MSA cattle, that might mean that they’re not going to grade as well because processing has been delayed due to fixing up paperwork. More broadly, the integrity of Australian products in overseas markets is only as good as the weakest link. If the documentation coming from the producer to the processor is a weak link, then it brings down the whole supply chain.”

“It all comes back to supply chain assurance, and in the case of LPA, that starts at the farm gate.”

Dr. Matthews, a member of the Australian Cattle Veterinarians – a special interest group of the Australian Veterinary Association – highlights the need for producers to have a good working relationship with their local veterinarian for information on animal health that could affect their processing possibilities.

“There is a wealth of information that’s starting to flow back from meat processors with regards to animal health. Your local vet is the one that can come out and visit your farm and determine what the most appropriate advice is for your situation.”

Australia is world-renowned for its commitment to livestock integrity, as one of the only countries in the world with lifetime traceability and identification for all animals. National Vendor Declarations are a critical part of this, as a means for producers to verify their commitment to ethical practices, and a way to show the supply chain and the world that they stand by what they sell.



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