1. Who can enter traceability information onto APHIS?
DAERA staff have access to APHIS to allow them to enter the traceability information supplied by animal keepers. Keepers can also enter this information directly onto APHIS through a web service called AOL (APHIS Online) provided they have registered to do so.
Operators of other establishments, such as markets and abattoirs, also have direct APHIS access to allow them to notify DAERA of the movements of livestock into and out of their establishments. This is important as we wish to know, in as close to real time as possible, where livestock are moving to, and where their place of residence will be, following a show or sale.
2. Once a move of an animal from a market is uploaded into APHIS – can it be changed?
Yes, provided it is done so by the end of the next working day as required by legislation. The change must be made by a member of market staff under the control of an authorised market operator, using the unique user login code allocated to that market operator combined with the correct password. However, importantly, this does not delete the original information, which is retained on the system. Rather, it ensures the most recent and up-to-date information is accurately provided and a new movement document is issued. The system must have the function whereby those inputting the data are able to correct any mistakes. For example, a mistake on the number of animals input or a wrong destination address.
Crucially, like all systems relying on public or stakeholders input to ensure accuracy, market operators rely on buyers to provide them with a registered destination premises in order for them to complete their movement notifications. Where cattle do not go to the original intended destination, the buyer must inform the market operator who must amend the original movement notification by the end of the next working day.
The most important thing is that the information uploaded is accurate and that all moves onto any holding are recorded within the system. If any corrections need made after the one working day timeframe, a request, with appropriate evidence, must be submitted to the Department for consideration.
3. Why do you allow corrections to movement records to be made up to the end of the following working day?
We only permit corrections to initial records of movements by close of play of the next working day after the date of sale. This limited time window to make corrections balances the need to maintain an accurate, real-time record of animal movements against the risk of an animal moving onto a holding not declared as its final destination.
4. How many corrections are made in a year?
The latest complete dataset for the 12 month period up to October 2021 indicates that out of the 417,447 market moves recorded, 8,454 (2%) had an amendment to a different end destination recorded by the market operator within one working day after the original sale. The ability to make these corrective amendments is necessary to ensure the information held on the APHIS database accurately reflects the location of all animals and any movements that have taken place.
Should any animal be physically moved onto any holding within this timeframe, prior to a move to its final destination, there is a legal obligation to notify the Department and have this move recorded on APHIS.
5. Are there any circumstances where the initial movement notification should not be amended?
The initial movement notification should never be amended to conceal any movement of livestock onto any holding at any point in its life. To do so intentionally would be a criminal offence.
6. Can DAERA guarantee that all traceability records on APHIS are 100% accurate at all times?
Like any database, the accuracy of APHIS is reflective of the information entered into it. Robust processes and protocols are, however, in place to ensure that this is as accurate as possible. While the vast majority of keepers notify traceability information accurately and on time, DAERA does sometimes encounter instances where this is not the case. DAERA has established procedures in place to investigate any such instances.
Any cattle which are found to have a gap in their traceability record have statuses applied on APHIS which restrict them from onward movement which may exclude them from the food chain. In addition, keepers may have cross compliance financial penalties applied or face investigation by the Department where non adherence to legal requirements is suspected.
7. Are there any checks on the ground to check that cattle traceability details are being notified accurately?
All cattle herds in Northern Ireland are subjected to a full herd test for Tuberculosis at least once annually. As part of that test, the testing vet is required to read every animal’s full identity number and record any discrepancies.
In addition, at least 3% of cattle herds are inspected annually by DAERA officials specifically for traceability compliance.
Finally, all cattle must be checked by abattoir operators to ensure full lifetime traceability before they are accepted for slaughter and enter the food chain. These checks are verified by the DAERA Official Veterinarian on site who must inspect all cattle before slaughter. DAERA has robust procedures in place for following up any issues identified at any of these inspections.
8. What recent changes have you made to APHIS regarding livestock movements?
We welcome any opportunity to improve our system. Following a recent internal audit of our approach to permitting corrections on initial moves, we are progressing recommendations to strengthen our approach to minimise the risk of fraud. This includes updating guidance to livestock marts and further analysis of the very small number of moves that are corrected following an initial upload to the system (approximately 2% in total).
9. Is DAERA confident that we operate a robust traceability system?
Yes, DAERA is confident that Northern Ireland has a world class traceability system which supports access to a huge domestic, EU and global market for our agri-food industry.
Our APHIS database is a key component of this traceability system and was first officially approved by the EU in 1999. Over the years, we have successfully demonstrated the integrity of our traceability system, and our APHIS database in particular, at numerous audits by EU and Third Country inspectors and by large multinational companies.
There has been significant investment in and development of the system and the Department itself also regularly reviews controls to safeguard the integrity of data on APHIS. In light of the risks recently highlighted regarding cattle movements from livestock markets, the Department is implementing further measures to ensure that APHIS and livestock traceability in Northern Ireland remains a global leader.