##################### Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy #####################
Texas Animal Health Commission
Box l2966 * Austin, Texas 78711 * (800) 550-8242 * FAX (512) 719-0719
Bob Hillman, DVM * Executive Director
For info, contact Carla Everett, information officer, at 1-800-550-8242,
For immediate release---
Premises Identification Program Ready;
Field Trial for Animal Identification Also Launched
Ranchers and other livestock facility owners from every facet of the
Texas livestock and poultry industry can now sign up for a unique
"premises identification number," for their livestock facilities. The
premises identification number will identify the location of livestock
operations in the state. It is the first step in implementing a national
system for quickly tracing livestock and poultry for disease
investigations or during a disease outbreak or animal health emergency.
The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) also is launching a year-long
pilot project with a number of ranches, feedlots, livestock markets,
slaughter plants and other facilities to test the durability and
reliability of electronic ear tags, related equipment and databases for
identifying and tracking individual animals.
"The national premises and animal identification system has been under
development for several years, with input and ideas from nearly 70
federal and state animal health agencies and livestock industry
associations," said Dr. Bob Hillman, a member of the Secretary's
Advisory Subcommittee on the National Animal Identification System. He
serves as Texas' state veterinarian and heads the TAHC, the state's
livestock and poultry health regulatory agency.
"The U.S. must have a reliable and efficient method for tracking and
finding livestock and poultry during an animal disease investigation or
when an animal health emergency occurs," Dr. Hillman said. He noted that
producers and organizations have discussed at great length, the need for
information to remain confidential. To protect data in regards to
premises and animal identification, the U.S. Department of Agriculture,
state-level agencies, such as the TAHC, and livestock organizations and
associations are seeking national and state legislation to protect the
data from public release or access.
"Regulatory agencies do not need or want access to production data, but
specific information, such as the age and class of animal, as well as
movement information is critical for finding potentially infected or
exposed animals during a disease situation," he said.
Today, it can take days to track the movement of livestock, to ensure
that all exposed or diseased animals have been detected, Dr. Hillman
pointed out. He predicted that, by 2008, when the national system is
fully implemented and mandatory, tracking livestock movements could be
streamlined, greatly enhancing disease eradication efforts. He stressed
that the ability to rapidly identify animals and trace livestock or
poultry movements is crucial to an effective animal disease response.
Dr. Hillman explained that the national animal identification system,
also called "NAIS," has two major components. The first, he said, is the
unique premises ≠ or facility ≠ identification, which identifies the
location of livestock operations. This seven-character alphabetic and
numerical 'address' is to be assigned to ranches and other sites where
livestock or poultry are maintained or moved. Premises information will
reside on a database, managed by each state and accessible only by
animal health officials. Dr. Hillman said facility owners can obtain a
premises identification number now by calling the TAHC's headquarters in
Austin at 1-800-550-8242. By late January, ranchers and facility owners
in Texas also may register online through the TAHC's web page at
"The second component of the national system≠animal identification--is
ready for 'field-testing.' This involves the unique identification of
each head of livestock moved from its original herd. For cattle, sheep,
goats, cervidae (deer) and some other species of livestock, the
identification device will be an electronic ear tag, also called a radio
frequency (RFID) identification device. For other species, such as swine
and poultry, the number can be applied to groups of animals, if they
spend their entire production life together as a group or unit," he said.
Dr. Hillman explained that the TAHC, Oklahoma Department of Agriculture,
Food and Forestry; and the Osage Nation in Oklahoma are working
cooperatively on a year-long pilot project, funded by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA), to test various aspects of the
premises and animal identification. Field tests also are being conducted
in at least 20 other states, to ensure the system will function well
when it is fully implemented, said Dr. Hillman.
"In Texas, we will work with specified ranches and livestock facilities,
equipment suppliers and computer data service providers to test the
effectiveness, durability and compatibility of equipment and databases
for identifying and tracking individual animals," said Dr. Hillman.
"As many as 80,000 individually numbered electronic tags will be used by
the pilot project participants, so cattle, sheep, goats or domestic deer
can be identified prior to change of ownership or commingling with
animals owned by other ranchers or farmers. The tags may be applied to
animals before they leave the farm and ranch, or upon arrival at
feedlots or order buyers' facilities, at livestock markets or other
livestock sites. This will give facility owners and managers an
opportunity to evaluate the system and calculate the costs and time
involved with tagging animals, and collecting and reporting animal
movement data. Implantable electronic devices will be used for
identifying and tracking horses.
Unless a tag is broken or lost, an animal is to receive only one during
its lifetime. The unique 15-digit number on each electronic ear tag or
implantable device can be 'read and recorded' with a hand-held or
stationary tag reader. Ear tags also are imprinted with the number, so
the information can be accessed, even if readers are unavailable or out
When identified animals are sold, moved or harvested, project
participants will report the event to third-party data service providers
by computer, fax or mail, Dr. Hillman explained. Animal tag numbers will
be correlated in the database to premises identification 'addresses.'
A major aspect of the project will involve determining problems that
occur when integrating information from several data collection systems
into a central or common database. Ultimately, when an animal's number
is queried, a report should list all the premise numbers where the
animal had been maintained. Likewise, when a premise number is queried,
the list of related animal identification numbers should appear. When an
animal is harvested, its number will be retired.
"With the 'roll-out' for the premises identification system, and field
trials underway for animal identification, we are much closer to the
goal of fighting disease more efficiently and effectively," said Dr.
Hillman. "Once the field trials are completed across the U.S.,
improvements can be made before the animal identification system is
launched nationally. By that time, we hope to have confidentiality
issues, and any equipment and database compatibility problems evaluated,
addressed and resolved."
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