USDA Unveils New Vision For Livestock ID Plan

The new business plan provides a species-specific approach for each livestock group. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released a new business plan for its National Animal Identification System (NAIS) that focuses on issues facing each species and identifies strategies to carry out NAIS implementation. Strategies include improvement in data compatibility and technology, and cooperation

The new business plan provides a species-specific approach for each livestock group.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released a new business plan for its National Animal Identification System (NAIS) that focuses on issues facing each species and identifies strategies to carry out NAIS implementation. Strategies include improvement in data compatibility and technology, and cooperation with livestock and breed associations and with state governments.

The new business plan will require those who participate in USDA's disease management and surveillance programs to register their premises and obtain a premises identification number (PIN). Registration data will include the physical location of a farm, a contact telephone number and other public information, which will not be stored in USDA's database.

The USDA plan provides for a species-specific approach to fit the different production and marketing requirements of each livestock group.

The plan sets the following deadlines for premises registration:

  • March 2008 for 100% of commercial poultry houses;

  • March 2009 for 100% of swine premises to be registered; and

  • December 2009 for just 70% of U.S. cattle to be on registered premises.

National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) President Jill Appell of Altona, IL, says, “NPPC believes USDA's new business plan will significantly improve implementation of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). NAIS is critical to protecting our national swine herd and, thus, our domestic and international markets.”

NPPC and the National Pork Board formed a Swine Identification Implementation Task Force in 2005 to enhance the swine ID system.

Mandatory Effort Supported

Fear of losing export markets is one reason Appell says her group continues to support a mandatory national animal ID system.

The pork industry completed it's national pseudorabies (PRV) eradication program involving a collaboration of government and industry that was mandatory from the start, she points out.

“The PRV program was not only mandatory, it worked, so we probably don't have the same reluctance as some other species may have to a mandatory program,” Appell says.

Since 1988, the swine industry has been using a mandatory identification and traceback system requiring swine to be individually identified to ownership before entering consumer channels.

During the PRV eradication program, this traceback and identification (ID) system was paired with state-assigned PINs to provide the infrastructure necessary to eradicate the disease.

Today, under USDA's NAIS, enhancements can be made to the whole program through implementation of the Swine ID Plan using the nationally standardized PIN for site identification, says Patrick Webb, DVM, director of Swine Health Programs at the National Pork Board.

“It's all about enhancing our animal health infrastructure to benefit the swine industry,” he explains. “Having a standardized means to identify swine premises across states provides the industry with an opportunity to improve disease surveillance programming, disease traceback and emergency response capabilities,” he explains.

Enhancing Surveillance

At an industry level, PINs can be used to improve surveillance programming and make the ID program more cost effective. “We can actually improve how we spend our surveillance dollars because we can begin to better target surveillance to populations of pigs based on their risk of exposure to the disease the industry is trying to detect.

“Today, we know how many sows are marketed every year, but we really can't target surveillance at specific plants because we don't have a good idea of exactly where they came from. Sows from a region can be sorted off to a lot of different plants in multiple states,” Webb points out.

Feral Pig Issue

Improving surveillance will be helpful for future reference, especially now that the United States has five million feral swine populating 33 states from the Gulf of Mexico to as far north as Wisconsin, west to California and up the East Coast, Webb observes.

Some of those states, such as Iowa, feature a large domestic swine population that is potentially at risk from feral swine. “They are the animals that could potentially bring back swine brucellosis or pseudorabies to our commercial segment because feral swine still have those diseases and our domestic swine don't,” he says.

USDA inspectors are conducting market swine surveillance in packing plants today. But once the new swine ID system is fully implemented, sampling surveillance can be increased to test more animals that are coming from these high-risk areas where there are feral swine, Webb notes.

“You can target certain plants to increase surveillance, tailoring it for location and risk, allowing us to do better risk assessments, and having more scientifically valid surveillance data. In this way, we can show trading partners that we really are looking for these diseases, and that we have traceability systems in place. We can say that we are actually doing the surveillance at a level necessary to assure them that we are still free of these diseases, and that we can detect them early,” Webb stresses.

Bolstering Biosecurity

Developing tools to help producers manage biological risks can allow the industry to move forward on standardizing its biosecurity practices, he notes. Adding this component to premises ID and disease surveillance programming can develop the necessary infrastructure to help maintain business continuity in the event of a foreign animal disease outbreak, according to Webb.

The Pork Board is working with a university to develop a tool for producers and their veterinarians to assess and increase the farm's level of security.

All of these efforts are intended to better protect the swine industry's ability to do business in the event of a foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak, for example.

“Right now we don't have the animal health infrastructure to say that if there were an outbreak of FMD in cattle only, that it wouldn't affect swine (for trading purposes),” Webb clarifies.

Biosecurity is not size-specific for disease control. It's needed in all types and sizes of operations. Upgrading actual biosecurity practices consists of simple steps, he says.

For producers raising hogs in outside lots, trying to keep out feral pigs, double fencing is advised. Webb also suggests keeping all feed locked up and cleaning up any feed spills.

If producers suspect wild boars have been visiting their herds, they should work with state animal health authorities to conduct surveillance “to make absolutely sure they haven't brought swine brucellosis or PRV back into those outdoor pigs,” he says.

Swine ID Participation

Webb reports the swine industry is united in favor of premises ID registration, but with about 66% of swine farms signed up (44,312 out of an estimated total of 67,280), obviously the job is not yet done.

“It becomes an issue of just getting in front of producers, with the right information, and getting them to register in their state,” he says.

Webb has three regional ID coordinators working with every state's ID coordinators and state pork producer associations to get educational materials in the hands of pork producers.

“These coordinators will be out in full force at this winter's state pork congresses, and I encourage pork producers to visit with them about premises registration and the swine ID plan,” Webb adds.

To learn more about swine ID and premises registration, go to the National Pork Board's Web site:

Animal ID Funding Trimmed

Funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) new business plan for the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) received a jolt as Congress shaved more than two-thirds off the Bush administration's request for NAIS in fiscal year 2008.

In the omnibus budget package passed by Congress in late December, lawmakers approved just $9.75 million for NAIS, less than a third of the more than $33.2 million requested by USDA.

It's now up to Congress and the Bush administration to try and resolve the budget differences and provide more funding to move animal ID forward in fiscal year 2008.

Premises Registrations Grew in 2007

The U.S. Department of Agricul-ture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service reports 429,600 premises registered in the National Animal Identification System (NAIS).

Registration increased in 2007. And, in December, Nebraska became the 10th state to register at least 50% of its total estimated production agricultural premises under this system.

“Premises registration is absolutely necessary to rapidly and reliably trace and eradicate animal disease,” emphasizes Bruce Knight, undersecretary of USDA's marketing and regulatory programs. “As the number of registered premises continues to grow, it emphasizes the growing support for animal identification. I applaud these producers for making a choice that is crucial to the health and economic well-being of commercial livestock and poultry industries in the United States,” he says.

According to Nebraska officials, increased registrations were due to heavy traffic on its “Locate in 48” Web site. “Locate in 48” publicizes the main goal of NAIS, which is to retrieve trace back data within a 48-hour window to contain the spread of animal disease. Other factors contributing to Nebraska's increase in registration include the ability to register by phone and direct mail outreach.

Other states topping the 50% registration mark last year included Idaho, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Utah and Wisconsin. West Virginia was approaching the 50% mark, having registered 49.8% of its estimated 17,670 premises.

Three other states, Delaware, Iowa and Massachusetts, have reached the 40% mark, with double-digit gains in a number of states. Iowa, for example, started 2007 with just over 11,000 premises registered, and ended the year with over 20,000. Texas registered more than 6,400 new premises last year.

NAIS is a cooperative effort amongst states, tribes and industry partners to respond quickly and effectively to animal disease events, according to USDA. The three program components consist of premises registration, animal identification and tracing. Premises registration establishes a nationwide communications network to aid livestock owners and animal health officials in the event of an animal disease outbreak.

There are about 1.4 million production premises in the United States. To contact a state partner or learn more about NAIS, go to