A farmer from the Banbridge area in Co. Down has been convicted for failing to notify the movement of cattle out of his herd or death of cattle.

53-year-old Stephen Donald of Carrick Road, Loughbrickland, pleaded guilty at Newry Magistrates Court and was subsequently fined £700 plus a £15 offender levy.

His case arose following a cattle inspection of his herd by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) welfare and enforcement officers.

According to DAERA, breaches of the Cattle Identification Regulations “weaken and undermine” the cattle traceability system in Northern Ireland – including the “integrity” of the department’s Animal and Public Health Information System (APHIS). 

Cattle movements, notified to the department, are recorded on to the APHIS database, which is in the process of being replaced by the Northern Ireland Food Animal Information System (NIFAIS).

The NIFAIS is being launched in two stages; the first stage went live at the beginning of September but the next phase won’t go live until 2024.

Holstein cattle in a field

This first stage includes keeper registration and tag suppliers; bovine disease tracing; import and export; valuations; AFIB milk functionality; IRM; cattle identity inspections; residues; VPHP; and farm quality assurance.

A reduced APHIS remains available for other species and will be supported until NIFAIS stage two is successfully delivered. 

However, a report has suggested that the 2024 launch date might be delayed considering that the September 2023 launch date was.

According to the report by the Northern Ireland Audit Office, in total, the NIFAIS is more than five years behind schedule – and cost approximately £17 million more than what was initially estimated.