The new system of online livestock records in NI is being amended to make it easier to use, DAERA officials have confirmed.

Speaking at Stormont last Thursday, Nigel Trimble said the current focus with the new NI Food Animal Information System (NIFAIS) was about “making the system more user friendly”.

The first stage of NIFAIS went live in September 2023 as part of a process that will see it replace the longstanding Animal Public Health Information System (APHIS).

“The main issue since we went live was performance. Markets, meat plants and private vets all had issues with the system being too slow,” Trimble said.

“We eventually found the cause for that and it was fixed. There have been no complaints about performance for the last number of months,” he added.

The development of NIFAIS has been hit with numerous delays and a budget overspend.

A report by the NI Audit Office in June 2023 estimated the total cost of NIFAIS could run 10% higher than the original projection of £58m.

Brian Doherty from DAERA told MLAs last week that this was mostly the fault of DAERA, and not the software company that is developing NIFAIS, known as Capita.

“The delays, it would be fair to say, lay with DAERA. The contract management approach that was taken was quite rigid,” he said.

Following a review, the approach used for developing the NIFAIS software was changed, and Doherty said this has been beneficial for the whole process.

“We are actually heavily involved in the development, rather than waiting to be given a product at the very end,” he explained.

At present, around 70% of the functionality of the old APHIS system has moved across to NIFAIS.

The remaining functions on APHIS mainly relate to non-bovines, such as sheep and pigs, and the plan is to switch APHIS off completely next year.

“It’s the remaining 30% that has to move across. We are on track to have stage two up live from June 2025,” Doherty said.