02/25/04 — Cattle producers hear new ID program

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Cattle producers hear new ID program

By Sam Atkins
Published in News on February 25, 2004 1:59 PM

WILSON -- Cattle producers across the state will soon participate in a new animal identification program to help prevent the spread of diseases, like mad cow.

The goal of the state program is to quickly trace the path of an animal that tests positive for an infectious disease. This would allow agriculture officials to determine where the animal came from and the animals it had been in contact with, all within 24 hours.

Several producers from Wayne County joined others Tuesday to learn more about the program. The N.C. Cooperative Extension was the host of the Regional Beef Conference at the Wilson County Fairgrounds.

Dr. C.F. Kirkland, a veterinarian with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, is in charge of implementing the program. He said cattle has been pushed to the forefront of the program after a case of mad cow disease was found in Washington state in December.

The initial partnership was formed between the animal industry and state and federal government officials at the request of the United States Animal Health Association.

The ID program was completed and ready for evaluation in October. It will help producers and animal health officials improve their efforts in current disease eradication and control, protect against foreign animal disease outbreaks and provide a way to address threats from deliberate introduction to disease, said Eileen Coite, Wayne County livestock extension agent.

Kirkland said the program has been in the planning stages for a couple of years.

The type of ID has not been decided yet, but it may be done by using either an injectable microchip, ID badge, retinal scanning or DNA profiling. He expects the decision will be to use some type of radio frequency ID ear tag. The cattle would need to be tagged when there is a change of ownership or when they are sold or slaughtered, said MS. Coite.

Groups of cattle will be sent through a shoot, and the tags will be scanned and the code numbers recorded in a computer database. The numbers will indicate the producer's name, address and phone number, said Kirkland. The tags would be similar to the plastic production tags being used now.

He said N.C. officials have proposed that each state develop, administer and implement its own plan. There are 950,000 cattle in the state, most being on farms with less than 50 head, he added.

Representatives from all 50 states have been meeting to decide what type of technology would be used. It will be two or three months before a decision is made. Producers will know as soon as possible so they can comply with state and federal regulations.

He said the program should start being implemented by July 1 and be fully implemented by July 2006. Different animals will be phased in, including bison, beef cattle, dairy cattle, swine, sheep, goats, horses, deer and elk and poultry. The standards will apply to all animals regardless of their intended use as seedstock, commercial, pets or other personal use, said Ms. Coite.

One main concern with the program is its cost to producers. Both the federal government and all industry stakeholders are expected to share in the costs.

One producer in Wayne and Duplin counties said he is pleased with the idea.

Jake Price has around 250 beef cattle in both counties combined. He said there are still a lot of decisions to be made, but those in charge of implementing the plan are trying to make it as easy on the farmers as possible.

"I think it's something that needs to come about," said Price. "It is for our own protection and for the cattle industry as a whole."

More information on the plan can be accessed at the Web site www.usaip.info. For a printed version, contact the extension office at 731-1525.