Going Green

Friday, September 21, 2007

National Animal Identification System

The National Animal Identification System (NAIS) is a voluntary State-Federal-Industry partnership that consists of a modern streamlined information system designed to help producers and animal health officials respond quickly to any animal health events occurring in the United States. The NAIS came about because of outbreaks of BSE in Europe, Canada and the U.S.

Livestock producers are traditionally very independent individuals. Government oversight and intrusion into their business is something that has a long history of resistance within the livestock industry. If viewed as a government program, NAIS will be doomed for failure unless it becomes mandatory. If it can be implemented within a voluntary framework, the industry has the opportunity to help shape the program to their benefit rather than burden.

NAIS begins with premise registration. Registering your premises with the NAIS is simple, quick and free. It does not require your participation in any of the other components of the NAIS.

Why should you register your premise with the NAIS? The primary reason is that it opens the lines of communication between you and animal health authorities. If there is a disease outbreak or other animal health event, you are ensured of being alerted. If the event puts your animals at risk, you will be provided with the information and assistance to take action to protect your herd. This was important to producers in Southeastern Colorado, Northeast New Mexico, and Western Kansas this past winter. Those producers whose premises were registered as part of the NAIS were first to receive assistance during the extreme blizzard conditions that occurred. Because their premises were registered, they were the first to receive emergency hay drops.

The second component of the NAIS is animal identification. Animal identification can be individual or group/lot. The individual animal identification number (AIN) is unique and stays with the animal for its lifetime. It links the animal to its birthplace or premises of origin. When combined with animal tracing, the AIN links the animal to each premises/location that has been reported for it. The individual identification option is best for breeding animals such as herd bulls that may be transferred individually from operation to operation. If your primary enterprise is selling a calf crop as a group to stocker or feedlot operations, the group/lot identification may be the best option.

The AIN is not restricted to use within the NAIS. The same identifier may be used with compliant animal health or breeding herd management systems. This provides maximum flexibility for the producer.

The final component of the NAIS is animal tracing. It is currently under development through a cooperative effort of state and private sector groups. Once this component of the system is in place, the producer may choose the industry database within which to enroll their animals. This will give producers the ability to know where purchased animals have been and to what potential diseases they may have been exposed. This component of the system also will provide consumers with the greatest possible assurance that in the event of an animal disease outbreak, control measures can be expedited to locate all potentially exposed animals and remove them from the production chain until the disease outbreak is resolved.

It is the stated goal of the NAIS to be able to trace to its origin within 48 hours, any disease outbreak. Such a goal will require extensive cooperation among many industry components to achieve. It will involve federal and state officials, livestock auction markets and dealers, feedlots, stocker operators, cow/calf producers, and all other entities which may handle the animals.

The result of implementing the NAIS will be a stronger, safer food production industry that consumers can be assured is providing them with the best quality product. Producers will benefit from a more stable market less subject to the scares of media hype.

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