For Release February 6, 2005

National Animal Identification System


by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent

National Animal Identification System (NAIS), electronic animal identification (eID), premises registration; these are all phrases and outcomes of the one case of BSE (Mad Cow disease) in Washington state in December, 2003. While they may not be familiar to everyone, they are quickly working their way into the vocabulary of every cattle producer and ultimately into the vocabulary of all livestock producers.

There is a real push on, right now, to be able to track each and every head of cattle through their entire life span. The entire reason is simply in case of another case of BSE, or any other livestock disease, the entire life of the infected animal(s) can be traced to try to determine what other animals may also be infected or have been exposed to the infection. The federal veterinarians want to be able to quickly establish where one particular animal was during every minute of its life and what other animals it may have come in contact with.

Once the system is up and running, every time someone buys an animal, the unique identification number of that animal is recorded. Every time that animal went through a sale barn, or even if it was simply shown at a county fair for a few days, that movement will be recorded. This can be done by manually writing down the 15 digit ID number located on a small ear tag, or scanning the ear tag with an electronic reader that through short range radio waves identifies that animal. They're still working on the technology to make this happen efficiently.

This is to be accomplished by establishing an identification number to each "premise" that raises cattle. This will be more of an identification of a livestock herd, than one particular farm or pasture. If a producer has multiple herds, that are never commingled, then each herd would have a separate premise ID. A rancher may have a purebred herd and a commercial herd that are kept separate so each herd would have a different premise ID. Potentially there could be a few problems if two or more ranchers share a pasture where cattle from two different herds are mixed for part of the year. They're still working on that issue too!

When the system is fully operational, a producer will have to have their cattle ear tagged before they can be sold. If you raised one steer at a time and took it to a local packing plant to be processed into meat, you might not have to worry about this. But that probably doesn't account for very many cattle producers. If you don't tag your animals, someone along the way will do this for and you will pay a fee to have it done.

There are still a lot of details on NAIS to be worked out. As these details are finalized, I will keep you posted. In the meantime there is one very important item all cattle producers and possibly all livestock producers need to tend to. The Kansas Animal Health Department is doing premises registration. It is a one page form that needs to be filled out with the pertinent information regarding your livestock operation. At this time there is no charge to file this paperwork because the USDA has provided funding to help the states accomplish this. I have the forms at my office and they are also available on the World Wide Web.

The times are changing for the livestock production industry. As is usually the case with change, there are far more questions than answers. But let's just keep moving this along, call me if you have questions and we'll see our way through!


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