|By TIM THORNBERRY
NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. — To say the recent news of a ban on U.S. beef by Japan seems like a terrible déjà vu to American cattle producers could be an understatement if the same thing happens that did two years ago when a ban by many Asian countries left the industry in a quandary.
Efforts since then have been underway to enact a National Animal Identification System (NAIS) which would tag all livestock with an electronic chip that would lead potential buyers to a U.S. database containing birth and origination information on each head of livestock.
The USDA said, “The main objective (of the NAIS) is to develop and implement a comprehensive information system that will support ongoing animal disease monitoring, surveillance and eradication programs. Additionally, successful advancements of NAIS will enable state and federal animal health officials to respond rapidly and effectively to animal heath emergencies such as foreign animal disease outbreaks or emerging domestic diseases.”
Kentucky’s efforts in the initiative have been led through the combined efforts of the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Assoc., the Kentucky Beef Network and the state Department of Agriculture.
Now a new group, the U.S. Animal Identification Organization (USAIO) is poised to help these and other organizations accomplish the goals of the NAIS.
“The USAIO is a nonprofit, independent organization working with every segment of animal industry and animal health authorities to manage the industry-led animal identification movement database as prescribed by the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) plan,” said USAIO Chairman Charles Miller.
Miller, a Kentucky cow-calf farmer is one of the group’s directors, as is Rick Stott, a Boise, Idaho beef producer, and Lance Kuck, a Bassett, Neb. bison producer.
“This organization looks forward to working closely with industry and animal health authorities to move the NAIS forward in a positive, proactive way,” Miller said. “A Memorandum of Understanding has been submitted by the USAIO to the USDA to form a strategic partnership and fulfill Secretary Johanns’ directive for the industry to develop the database repository. USAIO looks forward to engaging all the interested parties to provide an effective, efficient, and inexpensive database for the NAIS.”
Miller sees Kentucky producers becoming more involved with the process of identifying their livestock.
“We’ve got a lot of state producers involved and growing daily,” he said. “As a matter of fact, we have a great deal of participation throughout the Southeast. After all this is not only a matter of disease control but it is also a trade issue. The bottom line is, in order for the U.S. to be successful in the world market, the ID program has to be successful as well. Foreign trade can add $10-$14 per head to our cattle. Without exports, we lose that. The situation in Japan was a trade issue. (The U.S.) had an agreement and didn’t follow through.”
While participation in the NAIS is still voluntary, Miller said it will undoubtedly become a mandate.
“I think the ID program will have to become mandatory to accomplish the disease traceability and liability issues,” he said. “The beef supply in this country is safer than ever and the implementation of the NAIS will not only ensure that, but will make money for the producer by adding value to the animals they raise.”
A report from Computer World, a global network of information technology news said, “the USAIO this month will roll out a pilot program using software from Viatrace LLC, a South Burlington, Vt.-based vendor of tracing systems.
Its SQL Server-based application will be live next month. Although the database is now located at Viatrace’s headquarters, the USAIO is looking for an alternate site to host it, Stott said. A CEO and CIO to manage the project will be hired within six months.
Stott said the Viatrace system will allow ranchers and other livestock producers to log in via the Web and enter relevant data using a spreadsheet format or XML formatting.
The exact means of gathering the information, whether through RFID tagging or bar code-based readers, has not been decided.
Ranchers will be able to access the system during the pilot and offer feedback on its usability and functions, said Stott. He predicted that the database could cost as little as 30 cents for each animal entered into it, which would make it attractive to smaller livestock producers.”
Published in the February 1, 2006 issue of Farm World.