ROSEPINE, La. — Electronic animal identification is being considered as a way to track U.S. cattle through the production and processing systems. Like any new program, the techniques are changing rapidly as the planning groups consider new technologies and ideas in developing a nationwide program, said LSU AgCenter animal scientist Dave Sanson.

Following the recent discovery of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy in a cow in Washington state and the outbreaks of Newcastle disease in poultry flocks in several Western states, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Animal Identification System working groups are trying to expedite the implementation of a national animal identification system. The system would enable farmers and government officials to quickly track and contain animal disease outbreaks by using precise identification of each animal.

The efforts to develop a NAIS in the United States advanced this spring with the April 27 announcement by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann A. Veneman that $18.8 million would be transferred from the Commodity Credit Corp. to provide initial funding for the program during the 2004 fiscal year.

Louisiana cattle producers and other industry leaders learned about the development of the new National Animal Identification System NAIS during the recent annual LSU AgCenter’s Rosepine Research Station Field Day.

The program will assign a different 15-digit ear tag number, which could be read electronically, to each animal in the United States. The numbers will be used by officials to track animals, to keep information on where each has been and to assist in quickly tracking and containing disease outbreaks. The electronic identification tags or boluses are expected to cost less than $3 each.

“This electronic number can be scanned using a radio frequency reader and displayed on a computer screen with other information about the animal,” said Sanson, continuing, “And this technology helps to improve the efficiency and accuracy of record-keeping.”

The technology to identify and keep individual records on cattle is developing rapidly, said Sanson.

Already, a producer can use a small, handheld computer or PDA to scan an animal’s number, enter information about the animal while in the field and electronically transfer the information from the PDA to a larger computer.

“This technology helps producers easily maintain important information about an individual animal on a daily basis,” said Sanson.

Although cattle producers are leading the way in the animal identification effort, all producers selling animals for food — including swine, poultry, sheep, fish and other animals –will be required to adopt the procedures.

Veneman said $33 million in funding is earmarked for initial infrastructure development and implementation of a national program for the 2005 federal fiscal year.

“We want to let producers know this program is coming and that we will be available to assist you, as needed, with the new animal identification technology,” said Sanson.

John Chaney writes for the LSU AgCenter. e-mail: jchaney@agcenter.lsu.edu