Changes to Livestock Production Assurance accreditation — keeping it simple

Producers, buyers and sellers of sheep, beef and goats should now be well aware that industry has made some changes to the Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) accreditation program. Feedback from many in the red meat industries indicates there is some confusion about what needs to be done, and why.

So we provide here some simple facts to help explain the why, how and what of these changes.

What and why

Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) has made changes to the LPA program to help Australia maintain market access for our red meat products by assuring disease freedom and welfare integrity. Red meat exports are worth more than $2 billion for the country, and they go to more than 100 destinations across the globe. Australian red meat products currently have a good reputation internationally for quality, reliability and safety, which needs to be maintained for ongoing market access. The crux of the changes being implemented is that farmers will document what they do, along with the training they provide to staff and contractors, to provide this assurance.

Integrity Systems is an MLA subsidiary company that manages the three elements of the red meat integrity system:

  • National Livestock Identification System (NLIS)
  • Livestock Production Assurance program (LPA)
  • LPA National Vendor Declaration (LPA NVD).

NLIS enhances Australia's ability to track livestock during disease and food safety incidents. It provides information through identification and traceability of livestock that underpins market access for Australian red meat globally.

LPA is an independently audited, on-farm assurance program covering food safety, animal welfare and biosecurity. It provides evidence of livestock history and on-farm practices when transferring livestock through the value chain.

Producers declare this information on LPA NVDs, which are required for any movement of stock between any of the roughly 220,000 members of LPA. This includes movement to processors or saleyards, or between properties if they have different Property Identification Codes (PICs).

NLIS, LPA and LPA NVDs are complemented by off-farm food safety initiatives. Together, these measures build a culture of shared responsibility throughout the whole Australian red meat supply chain — one that acknowledges and embraces the role and reputation of each participant as a supplier of safe, ethically produced and high-quality food.

Note: that the state and territory governments determine the processes and how they are applied. Victoria is transitioning to the individual electronic version of NLIS for sheep and goats, to improve traceability of these animals. Other states currently use the alternative mob-based system.

Do farmers have to be LPA accredited?

There is no requirement to be part of the LPA system — if you are not, you won't be able to obtain or use LPA NVD forms. Although LPA is a voluntary industry program, the majority of meat processors require livestock to be sourced from LPA-accredited properties. Other processors discount non-LPA accredited stock, reportedly by as much as 40 per cent, compared with LPA-accredited stock. It is also a requirement that LPA producers source livestock from other LPA-accredited producers. In some states, it is possible for a company to use their own NVD forms but not in Victoria.

Screenshot of the LPA landing page on the MLA website

How do I know if I have been LPA accredited?

Many farmers don't know that they are LPA accredited, but it is very likely that you are — anyone who has purchased an LPA NVD book in the past is. The LPA user ID will be on the invoice that accompanies NVD books. If you have any issues remembering your LPA user ID, contact the LPA Helpdesk (1800 683 111).

Do Victorian producers need to supply an NVD?

Consignors in Victoria must provide an NVD when sending cattle, sheep, goats and pigs of any age to an abattoir or saleyard, or when moving them to another property (with a different PIC, including when they are moved between two PICs under the same ownership). NVDs are also required when cattle, sheep, goats and pigs are being given away or sold as pets.

NVDs are not required when dead livestock are being collected for processing in a knackery. Dead cattle destined for processing in a knackery must be identified with an NLIS (Cattle) ear tag.

Further information:

Do I need to have a biosecurity plan?

To maintain LPA accreditation, farmers are required to complete a biosecurity plan for their farm (or PIC) that identifies the main biosecurity risks to their farm and what they are doing (or plan to do) to minimise these risks.

No specific template or document is required, but industry has developed templates that are easy to use. These templates include a large range of risks and activities; the list can look quite daunting. If you use these templates, you only need to complete what is relevant and doable for you and your farm.

If you are audited, you will be expected to have this plan on hand. It could be viewed as documenting practices that you already do to reduce the risk of disease and weeds, and ensure the safety of meat you sell (not selling stock within chemical withholding periods), and should be used to review risks and update strategies. It can be time consuming to try to address issues that are hard to manage – and if they are low risk – so make sure your plan addresses the key risks in ways that you know you can implement.

Animal welfare

LPA accreditation now also includes an assurance of animal welfare practices. Farmers will be required to have access to, and be familiar with, the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines, which are available for sheep, goats and cattle. These standards cover acceptable guidelines for most stock management practices. Most farmers find these are common-sense principles that are already implemented as part of farming livestock responsibly.

Renewing your LPA accreditation

Farmers will be required to renew their LPA accreditation within the next 3 years. This will require doing an LPA assessment, which has a number of modules. The modules are available online, along with some practice assessments.

Once the assessment is completed, farmers will pay a fee of $66, which will cover accreditation for 3 years. LPA National Vendor Declaration forms are available online and can be downloaded for free.

What if I do not have computer or internet access?

You can still purchase the paper or book formats of NVDs (at a cost of $40 for 20). You can also continue to use current forms that you have on-hand. When your LPA accreditation is up for renewal, you can obtain a kit and do this over the telephone (at a cost of $22), rather than doing the online modules.

Case study: Weed-free farms

Alison Gunn, East Gippsland beef producer, vet and BetterBeef co-ordinator: Alison outlined key risks for their beef farm on a recent producer phone seminar on the changes to LPA. The family farm is split into two blocks, one of which is free of invasive weeds. Alison estimates that it takes 20 days work per year to control the weeds on the other block. Keeping weeds off the free property is a high priority and she uses several approaches, as documented in the farm biosecurity plan:

  • New stock are quarantined to allow weed seeds to pass through them, before releasing for grazing — animals from the weedy block do not return to the weed-free one.
  • A specific vehicle is kept for use on the weed free property. When other vehicles go there they are washed down with a gerni prior to entering the property and stick to specific tracks on that property

Contractors vehicles

Alison also said that groups she works with often identify the frustration with trucks (fertiliser and spray contractors) coming onto the farm without washing down. If this is identified as a high risk then farmers will need to request that trucks do wash down and may consider paying extra for this.

Disease freedom and grain supplies

A group of sheep producers in southwest Victoria saw disease introduction (footrot and lice) as a high risk. They also identified a concern with buying grain from new or unknown suppliers (during droughts) when the stored seed may be treated and unsuitable for feeding to livestock. They felt that they needed to consider requesting Commodity Vendor Declaration forms to help address this risk.

Documentation of processes

Another advantage discovered by this group of developing the farm biosecurity plan was the ease with which they could now share documentation about animal and pasture treatments with other farm staff or contractors. They are looking to develop simple ways to do this.

Page last updated: 03 Jul 2020