Not content to wait on others, six national dairy organizations have joined together to facilitate and expedite progress in animal ID. IDairy was unveiled at World Dairy Expo yesterday.

So why is IDairy needed?

Because it’s not your father’s dairy industry anymore. In fact, Greg Marrs, Fort Lupton, Colo., dairy producer and member board of directors for National DHIA, says because of the changes in the dairy industry – animals that move to new locations several times during their life, a constant stream of traffic in and out of the dairy and even agroterrorism – make the risks faced today much different from the risks faced by his grandfather and father while dairying. And it is those risks that add up to “substantial financial and public perception risk,” he explains. Animal ID with traceback is the tool that allows one to manage that risk. And “we need to get started on it right now,” Marrs says.

Founding members of IDairy include Holstein Association, USA, Inc., National Association of Animal Breeders, National DHIA, National Milk Producers Federation, Professional Dairy Heifer Growers Association and American Jersey Cattle Association.

 “I’m excited to see these six organizations who have come together to do what’s right for our industry,” says Jerry Kozak, president and CEO of NMPF. In the past, the industry has been fragmented and that makes it difficult to progress. But “we’re not willing to wait until there is a train wreck,” says Kozak. “It is time to take action.”

IDairy hopes to have all dairy cows identified prior to the 2009 goal set by USDA. In order to accomplish this, IDairy has three phases that correspond to the National Animal ID System. They include:

  1. Register your premises.
  2. Individual identification of all animals.
  3. Record the information in a national database.

To help facilitate that first step, IDairy has developed a Web site that not only offers information on IDairy but also animal ID programs in general, including how to register your premises. To access, go to and then click on “Where to register your animals” on the left.

The tags

At this point, RFID technology has been selected for individual animal ID in cattle. Currently, ear tags that incorporate RFID are the ID tool of choice. However, USDA has said they will only set minimum technology standards. That’s where the coalition can help, explains Jay Mattison, CEO and administrator, National DHIA.

To gain acceptance, the RFID tags, as well as animal ID in general, must not interrupt cow flow, must work with on-farm management systems and software and meet the ISO standards and performances standards needed on farm to make this work. In addition, says Mattison, those standards need to be something “that tag manufacturers can live with and that are cost-effective for producers.”

Dairy producer Marrs can envision the day when RFID will deliver huge management value to dairies. On-farm uses he hopes to see come to fruition within the next five to 10 years include:

  • RFID tags that interface with his electronic milk meters and parlor management software.
  • A RFID reader that he could use to download information from his herd management software program to and then walk down a row of cows in headlocks. The process would also include a wand that would identify all the cows for breeding, or those scheduled for BST shots that day and allow him to record the data right there.
  • The ability to ID a calf, scan the dam’s tag, the calf’s tag and upload that information to his herd management software – all without a paper record.

While these applications with RFID tags may not be here yet, Marrs believes it is only a manner of time before RFID tags become an integral part of cow management.