From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 3, Number 40 - December 31, 2003
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

National animal ID planned

The National Animal Identification Development Team has extended, through Jan. 31, 2004, the opportunity for all interested individuals or groups within the animal agriculture industry and government to provide needed input to the on-going development of the U.S. Animal Identification Plan. The USAIP defines the standards and framework for implementing a phased-in national animal identification system that will greatly enhance the traceback capability of animal health officials.

Currently, USAIP species working groups are being formed to provide needed detail to the plan including, but not limited to, infrastructure needs, preferred identification devices, and suggestions as to how current identification systems may be integrated into the plan. Recognizing there are many details that need to be addressed within the various species, it is essential the working groups hear from industry stakeholders in order to best incorporate the suggestions and observations offered.

Unlike legislation recently passed requiring country-of-origin labeling at the retail level on packages of certain fruits, nuts and meats, the USAIP focuses on enhancing the nation's capability to accurately and effectively locate and trace individual animals and/or groups of animals within 48 hours should an animal health emergency arise. A copy of the plan may be downloaded at or a hard copy is available by calling (301)-734-5571.

Comments, suggestions and questions on the USAIP may be submitted via the web at; faxed to 719-538-8847; or mailed to USAIP Comments, 660 Southpointe Court, Suite 314, Colorado Springs, Colo., 80906.

Frequently asked questions on the U.S. Animal ID Plan

Why is this program needed?

A national animal identification system is needed to help protect American animal agriculture. This national plan, which identifies all food animals and livestock, will enhance disease preparedness by allowing the U.S. to identify any animals exposed to disease and will facilitate stopping the spread of that disease. In addition, it will provide benefits to industry in terms of market access and consumer demand. The USAIP will uphold the U.S.'s reputation for having a safe food supply and will promote continued confidence in agricultural or livestock products. Having a working system that allows for tracebacks to all premises that had direct contact with an animal with a foreign animal disease within 48 hours of discovery will reduce the financial and social impacts of such a disease.

Why 48-hour trace-back capability?

To protect the health of the U.S. herd, sound scientific principles indicate that being able to track and contain a disease event within 48 hours is essential. For the industry to maintain consumer confidence and protect its economic viability, the industry will need to demonstrate its ability to meet this standard.

Where do I get a premises ID?

The administration and maintenance of premises ID lies with each state's department of agriculture. State departments will use a national mechanism to obtain a unique national premises ID, and will record additional information such as type of premises, contact name, address, and phone number to contact the person in charge of a premises. Key pieces of information will be sent to the national premises database that can be used in the case of a disease trace-back.

What forms of identification will be used?

The form of animal identification used is intended to optimize accuracy, promote efficient information transfer, and be practical and effective in its application for individual species and/or industries. Species groups will have the choice of designing a system that may or may not use accompanying visible ID. For example, the cattle industry plans to use radio frequency identification (RFID) technology using an eartag attachment. Other species are exploring methods suitable for their industries, although effective official identification methods as described in the 9 CFR will be maintained for certain species. Electronic identification may be necessary for efficient and accurate data collection and animal tracking in some species or in particular animal movement scenarios. Official identification tags will not replace management ear tags unless the species groups establish those options. Ultimately it is anticipated that technological advances will allow for one tag or ID device that performs multiple functions. Implants (i.e., microchips) may be permitted for certain species in which no other form of ID is suitable and assuming that the implant site has been approved by the FDA and FSIS relative to ease of discovery at slaughter when appropriate.

Will producers need to have a radio frequency identification (RFID) reader?

Radio frequency (RF) technology is the form of electronic identification that is currently being considered. Producer's that have livestock that utilize RFID for official identification will not necessarily need to have a RFID reader. For example, the producer will be able to record the RFID code of the electronic device before it is applied to an animal and cross-reference the code with a visual-tag number. This will allow them to maintain a record of the RFID code without having to read (scan) the transponder. For cattle, the plan calls for the utilization of a RFID eartag attachment on which the RFID code is to be printed for visual readability. While reading and recording the RFID code manually is not ideal, it can be achieved.

An array of readers will be available on the market; ones that merely read and display the RFID code to ones that are attached to an advanced handheld computer. Palm type devices encased together with a built in reader are becoming quite popular.

Who will pay for RFID readers and their installation in markets and slaughter plants? Who will pay for the electronic identification devices?

The plan is being developed as an industry-government partnership, so it is expected that industry and the government will share the cost of the necessary elements. Exactly how those costs will be shared is currently under discussion within the various species working groups.

Will this be a mandatory program?

Efforts are geared toward developing a national animal identification program that will provide for the ability to rapidly track animals exposed to a disease concern, and will meet the needs of producers, animal industries, domestic and international markets and consumers. The plan still needs to be completed and the system needs to be tested to be sure it is effective and workable. Incremental implementation of the plan as development continues will allow for potential problems within the system to be identified and the plan modified to address those problems. Ultimately there needs to be full compliance for the system to work as effectively as it should. Once the USAIP has been finalized, considered workable and accepted by industry, it is likely that industry and market forces will drive the process towards full compliance. At that time, USDA will work with industry and state partners to achieve full participation with the USAIP.

Will I be able to sell my livestock if they are not officially identified?

Yes, as the plan will begin as a voluntary program. Over time, some markets may require animals to be identified that are not identified now. Species where ID is currently required will continue to have to be identified prior to entering commerce, i.e. sheep and goats under the national scrapie eradication program.

As the program is phased in, all animals of covered species will be encouraged to have premises identification, and eventually individual identification, prior to sale. For producers who lack facilities to apply identification devices at the premises of birth, there will be provisions for initiating the process at the point of sale.

Can animals be identified as a group?

Yes, an animal production system can use group/lot identification if the producer is able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of state animal health officials that, through group identification and production records, trace back to all premises with direct contacts of a suspect animal can occur in 48 hours. Each group will be identified with a unique and standardized number. Verifiable records will be required to further document premises ID and dates of movement.

What are the penalties for not using the program?

At this point, the USAIP is not fully developed and producers are not yet required to comply with any rules. When the plan is finished, the market forces may drive the process towards compliance.

What are the liability issues of this program for producers?

Producers are, and have always been, responsible for the livestock they produce. If practices are employed that would endanger consumers at any level, the producer responsible for creating that threat could have increased liability. Merely having the animals identified through the USAIP will neither increase nor decrease that liability. Effective traceability can help protect producers who apply best management practices. The system can help limit liability and narrow the scope of eradication efforts in the case of a disease emergency by being able to document that appropriate and responsible measures were followed.

What is the timeline for implementing this program?

Several steps need to be completed before the USAIP could be fully implemented, however the USAIP recommends that:

All states have a premises identification system initiated by July, 2004;

Unique, individual or group/lot numbers be available for issuance by the middle of 2004;

All cattle, swine and small ruminants possess individual or group/lot identification for interstate movement by July 2005.

All animals of the remaining species/industries identified above be in similar compliance by July 2006.

These standards will apply to all animals in commerce within the represented industries regardless of their intended use as seed stock, commercial, pets or other personal uses

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