National Animal Identification System

       What is the National Animal Identification System (NAIS)?

     Spurred by recent outbreaks of mad cow and other forms of disease within the livestock industry and global governmental global efforts to reign control over animal production, the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) is designed to track all agricultural animals as they come into contact, are mixed with or interact with herds and as they move through the supply chain.

     Ideally, the NAIS will enhance U.S. efforts to respond to intentionally or unintentionally introduced animal disease outbreaks more quickly and effectively. The United State Department of Agriculture's long-term goal is to establish a system that can identify all premises and animals that have had direct contact with a foreign animal disease or a domestic disease of concern within 48 hours of discovery.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions from the USDA:

Why is a National Animal Identification System needed?
The NAIS allows for rapid tracing of animals in the event of an outbreak, helping to limit the scope, spread and expense of the outbreak and minimizing the mpact on the industry as a whole. The NAIS will also be critical as USDA, States, and industry work to complete the disease eradication programs in which we have invested many years and millions of dollars. The NAIS may have merit for producers for other reasons as well, including providing additional marketing opportunities.

What is meant by the term "animal identification"?
Animal identification links each animal with a number and then links that number to a registered premises.

What is meant by the term "animal tracking"?
Animal tracking is the final step and consists of recording animal movements from one premises to another.

Is the NAIS related to the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) initiative?
The COOL program is a food labeling program designed to provide source of origin information to the consumer while the NAIS is a live animal tracking program designed to address animal disease and health concerns quickly. While the mechanisms to implement these programs may be similar, they are not currently connected.

What is the timeframe for implementation of this program? What do I need to do now (2005)?
The NAIS program is currently completely voluntary. USDA focused on establishing the processes for acquiring a premises identification number (PIN) in 2004 and 2005. More on this process is indicated below. Acquiring a PIN is voluntary in most states. The national focus will now turn to determining and establishing standards and procedures for acquiring official animal identification numbers (AIN) and for tracking animal movements. Official AINs should be available by the fall of 2005. Producers are not required to do anything at this time (May 2005). If a producer is interested in registering their premises, they can contact the state animal health official for assistance. If a producer is interested in using electronic tags, they should look into the optional resources detailed below.

Why should I tag my cattle and should I do it now (2005)?
Animal identification is one of the key elements of the National Animal Identification System. Each livestock animal will need an official Animal Identification Number (AIN) that is a 15 digit number beginning with 840 (representing the U.S.). NAIS remains completely voluntary at this time (May 2005), so many producers are using individual animal identification to improve on-ranch record keeping and management strategies, to market their cattle to specific verifiable programs, or to meet the requests of buyers and/or feeders. The cattle working group recommends that the tag be placed in the left ear and suggests that each tag company provide directions on how tags should be placed and applied. Attaching the official identification tag consistently in the left ear will help create more awareness that it is the official tag and not to be removed. Proper placement in the ear improves retention and the instructions from the tag manufacturer should be followed by producers when tagging their cattle. Unless you are interested in the advantages of management, processing and/or carcass data, tagging livestock with an electronic tag is not necessary at this point as NAIS is still voluntary. If you are interested in collecting data on your herd, check with one of the programs detailed below.

How do I get involved in a program to individually identify and track my livestock?
There are several programs available that provide individual animal identification methods and maintain data in a nationwide private database. Listed below are some of the options.

1. Check with your breed association to see if they have a program started. For example, the American Angus Association has AngusSource, and can collect and communicate breed identity, genetic composition, past performance history and management practices on feeder calves, stocker cattle and replacement females

2. Private data companies can help you identify and track your livestock through radio frequency electronic identification tags. Options include eMerge Interactive, AgInfoLink, APEIS, IMI Global, and Micro Beef Technologies (see Resources below).

3. If you are interested in a biometric identification option, check with your local veterinarian about options for DNA testing and identification. Optibrand has a system that will record the retinal vascular pattern of the animal’s eye.

4. Check with your Extension agent or your land grant university to see what other programs may be available to you. In Montana, that includes the Montana Beef Network, a cooperative project that has identified and tracked cattle since 1999 for value added and marketing purposes.

5. Check with the auction market or video auction sales company handling your cattle to see if they have any programs available. For example, Superior Livestock Auction is starting a new voluntary identification program called VASE (Verified Age Source Electronically identified).

6. Finally, check with your state industry associations. The staffs of those organizations are watching this program develop and can direct you to viable options for your operation.

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