NI vets and farmers frustrated by new IT system

NI vets and farmers frustrated by new IT system

A new IT system designed to help with traceability in the agri-food sector has been criticised by farmers and vets.

The Northern Ireland Food Animal Information System, which replaced a system which ran 15 years beyond its contract, went live last September, years behind schedule and millions of pounds over budget.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs said it wanted to ensure issues are addressed after farmers  struggled to use it.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union said it had been contacted by members concerned about not being able to complete everyday tasks and who feared being penalised for potentially missing regulatory deadlines.

Its deputy president, John McLenaghan, said: “One day it might be working okay, and you could register a calf, the next day you go on to do a similar thing and you’re just not able to get on,” he told BBC News NI.

“It’s anything from registering calves to breed-specific schemes to getting stock numbers to do nitrates figures, being at a factory with cattle on a trailer and not being able to offload them, waiting hours for the IT stuff to sort it out and get them off-loaded – it’s a myriad of things.”

“It’s extremely slow to upload data,” said Phil Walsh, from the Association of Veterinary Surgeons Practising in Northern Ireland.

“[It’s] slow to download data, difficult to process things that we processed previously,” he said.

“And the biggest problem is that none of us have had training in the new system.

“So we’re sort of finding our own way and that can be quite difficult,” he added.

In a statement DAERA said the team behind the new system recently met private vets and were working through a list of the issues they had raised.

“Any farmers experiencing difficulties should contact their local Daera direct office, as there are no known issues preventing farmers using NIFAIS providing they are correctly set up.

“Daera is also in regular discussion with markets and meat plants to advise on any issues arising.”