SALEM, Ohio – By 2009, the USDA hopes to have all U.S. livestock premises registered and all livestock under 1 year old identified through a voluntary National Animal Identification System.
The department released a plan April 6 outlining a timeline for the system and its three components: premises identification, animal identification and animal tracking.
The plan also included a procedure for integrating private and state animal tracking databases with the National Animal Identification System.
Already going. Premises registration for the National Animal Identification System started in August 2005. A premises, or location, is anywhere animals are born, managed, marketed or exhibited.
As of March, 235,000 premises have been registered, which accounts for about 10 percent of the national total, according to the USDA.
Individual animal identification began in March.
The USDA hopes to have cooperative agreements with private and state animal tracking databases by June 2006, and by February 2007, private and state animal tracking databases will be operating. The Animal Trace Processing System will help state and federal animal health officials track specific animals during disease investigations.
Benchmarks. In its plan, the USDA also set benchmarks for progress. By January 2007, the department wants to have 25 percent of the country’s premises registered and 5 percent of animals under 1 year old identified.
By January 2009, the goal is to have 100 percent of premises registered, 100 percent of new animals identified and 60 percent of new animals with complete movement data.
Gary Wilson, manager of animal identification for the Ohio Department of Agriculture, is optimistic about keeping up with the timeline. He said premises identification is on track and animal identification, at the very least, will come close to meeting the target dates.
However, the animal tracking portion of the plan might require more time than indicated, Wilson said.
David White, director of commodity relations at the Ohio Farm Bureau, said it will take a lot of work to have the National Animal Identification System implemented by 2009, but it is possible.
“We definitely believe this is needed and 2009 is doable,” he said.
Not impressed. Darol Dickinson of Dickinson Cattle Co. in Barnesville sees several shortcomings with the plan and the system.
“There’s no effort to stop disease,” he said, explaining the system would merely allow authorities to chase a disease 48 hours behind.
If bovine spongiform encephalopathy appears unavoidable, why not spend a few billion to develop a BSE vaccine, he asked.
“They (USDA) need to deal with solving the problem and not with government red tape and computers and records,” Dickinson said. “We’ve got a very flawed theory here.”
Dickinson also said cattle owners tend to be 55 or older, a demographic that sometimes isn’t familiar computers. Yet that’s the group who will be responsible for the databases.
He added the identification tags could malfunction or fall off, which would negate the whole process.
Time for action. Elizabeth Harsh, executive director of the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, said the timeline is “fairly aggressive in certain areas,” but added it’s time to proceed with an animal identification program.
“While there are huge mountains to climb… if we don’t move forward, we’re never going to get it done,” she said.
Animal ID goals
* January 2007
25 percent of premises registered
5 percent of animals less than 1 year old identified
* January 2008
70 percent of premises registered
40 percent of animals less than 1 year old identified
20 percent of animals less than 1 year old with complete movement data
* January 2009
100 percent of premises registered
100 percent of animals less than 1 year old registered
60 percent of animals less than 1 year old with complete movement data
Get the details
* For a full description of the National Animal Identification System implementation plan, go to www.usda.gov/nais.
* To register your premises in Ohio call 800-282-1955 or go to www.ohioanimalid.com.
(Reporter Janelle Skrinjar welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)