Click here to read the companion article  Immediate trace back essential

In a few years, the livestock industry will probably wonder how it identified animals any other way. But today, the industry stands at the beginning of a new information pathway known as a national animal identification plan. 

The plan calls for every farm in the country with livestock to be identified with a standardized premise ID. And, eventually for every animal — or animal lot in the case of species like swine, poultry and fish — to be given its own “social security” number, using a national numbering system.

The goal is to be able to trace the movement history of any given animal within a maximum of 48 hours.

While participation is currently voluntary, that could change pending congressional action following the country’s first confirmed case of Bovine Spongiform Encelopathy (BSE)last December.

To have an effective ID system and meet the 48-hour traceback requirement, as the system matures, it will need full compliance by all livestock producers, explains Robert Fourdraine, co-chair of the United States Animal Identification Plan’s development team and chief operating officer of the Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium.

And that probably means a mandatory ID system. But that decision has not yet been made.

Meanwhile, representatives of individual species groups are currently meeting to iron-out the details for each segment. The United States Animal Identification Plan’s development team will receive final recommendations from these groups in May, and phase 1 is proposed to begin July 1. Meanwhile, says Fourdraine, there are things that can be done as individuals and as an industry to move the plan forward, especially now with the increased urgency resulting from the country’s first case of BSE.

The proposed national plan will be implemented in three phases:


Click here to see the chart. 

Phase 1 - Premise ID
All states must have a premise ID system in place by July 2004. Livestock producers then can start registering their operations with the state department of agriculture or equivalent entity (like the Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium which has already developed Wisconsin’s system) to receive a premise ID number. All state systems must meet the guidelines for the national plan; however, states are allowed some flexibility to meet unique regional or production differences.

Currently, no timeline exists for when a producer must register a premise. This issue will probably be handled at the state level, as some states will be ready before others. Contact your state department of agriculture to find out when you can obtain your premise ID.

Once you get your premise ID number, you can obtain individual and group/lot numbers for your animals. Individual and group/lot numbers will be available for issue to producers by February 2005.

Phase 2 - Interstate movement
All cattle, swine, and small ruminants that move across state lines must receive an individual animal ID by July 2005. It has not yet been decided yet which groups of animals will need individual animal ID first. The species groups meeting this winter will decide that order. It also has not yet been decided whether tagging must occur at birth or before animal movement off your premise. However, consider tagging animals at birth to ensure that you’re in compliance.

“Tagging at birth really expedites the development of the system,” says Jodi Luttropp, coordinator for National Farm Animal Identification and Records.

Those animals not tagged at birth must be tagged before they leave your operation following July 1, 2005.

Swine and small ruminants, like sheep, can be identified by a group/lot number for interstate shipment by July 2005. If an individual animal from a group/lot is sold separate from the group, it must receive an individual ID tag before delivery.

As the system’s capabilities become available, you will be able to record all intra-state movement with your state department of agriculture through the use of secure Web sites or other communication tools. It is unclear at this time whether both seller and buyer will need to record transactions, though that seems likely. Also undetermined is how animal movement with heifer growers will be handled, as well as animal movement between farms where no sales transaction is involved.

Phase 3 - 100 percent compliance
All animal species — bison, beef, dairy, swine, sheep, goats, alpacas, llamas, horses, deer, elk, as well as eight species of poultry and 11 aquacultural species — will be able to develop specific implementation plans for their respective species. Dairy animals will most likely receive individual ID tags.

Additionally, all processing plants, markets and other industry segments must be fitted or retrofitted, if necessary, with the appropriate ID readers and tracking technology. At this point, visible tags and radio frequency ID technology, or RFID, are the favored methods of identification, especially for cattle.

Producers will eventually need to buy and tag each animal or animal lot on their operation with a special ear tag provided by the National ID program. Each individual animal ID (AIN) will include a country code and a unique numeric code identifying the animal. The AIN is linked to a premise ID in order to track the animal.

To see the proposed plan, go to:
To add comments or ask questions about the plan, go to: