If you are involved in livestock production, you already know the acronym "NAIS." Our industry has been and is still moving toward the National Animal Identification System, or NAIS. In fact, NF Ag News and Views has offered updates for the last two years, relating, among other things, the "knowns" and "unknowns" about the NAIS. Much has happened since Billy Cook's article in March 2004 and Ryan Reuter's in February 2005. You can review those articles on our Web site at www.noble.org/ag.
The goal of the NAIS is to identify all premises and animals that had contact with a foreign animal disease or other disease of concern within 48 hours of discovery, all the way back to farm-of-origin. In the initial plan, that is the only function the NAIS would serve. However, now there has been some discussion about using the database to re-establish ownership following natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina. There are three essential components to the system. The national premises identification system allocates and stores unique premises ID numbers for all locations involved in animal agriculture. States are responsible for defining and identifying premises and issuing the seven-digit numbers.
The individual animal identification system will allow for a unique, 15-digit number for every animal. (A group/lot identification number may be used for groups of cattle that are put together and stay together until harvest.)
The infrastructure for the NAIS includes the tags, electronic readers, premises and individual ID allocation and storage, processes and software for reporting and storing animal movement from one premise to another and the mechanisms for accessing the database when needed.
All 50 states now have processes in place and are actively issuing premises IDs. Your state's contact information is on the NAIS Web site at www.usda.gov/nais, or you can call your state veterinarian. You should get your premises ID now. As of the end of November 2005, 160,000 premises were registered nationwide. This first phase is in place and functioning. In April 2007, premises registration "alerts" will begin so that all will be registered by January 2008.
For cattle, individual animal identification will be an electronic ID tag with 15 digits, the first three being the country code ? 840 for U.S. cattle. Some states are currently testing various brands of electronic tags for effectiveness, stayability, readability, etc. At this time, distribution of the "840" tags is being developed. January 2008 is the target date for individual ID being required, although it is still my understanding that this initially can be accomplished as animals are marketed the first time, i.e., at the sale barn or feedlot.
Each time an animal moves from one premise to another, that movement will be recorded and associated with that animal's individual ID. This movement will be reported to and updated in a data storage system. In August 2005, the USDA made known its intent that this animal movement tracking database be established and maintained in the private sector. Public hearings were held last fall, and the final decision and design are still in the making.
The NAIS is here. Its primary purpose is to protect the health of our livestock industry. It will help gain market access and ensure confidence in our products, both here and abroad. A critical component is 48-hour trace back in case of a disease emergency. To accomplish this, each animal must be uniquely identified, as must each specific location that animal has been. Movement information must be collected, reported and stored in a location immediately accessible by monitoring agencies. Last November, the USDA announced $3 million for conducting research to develop or test potential solutions for animal identification and automated data collection in support of the NAIS. The projected timeline for all the pieces to be in place and working is January 2009.
I believe the NAIS is good for our industry. The costs are somewhat unclear at this time, but will be distributed and absorbed to become another (modest) cost of doing business. I have no doubt the issues of privacy will be resolved in the final program. Individual identification of cattle prior to marketing will be the minimum requirement, but it is also an opportunity for a producer to collect and use information to enhance management of his individual herd. We should be proactive by obtaining a premises ID now and staying informed about the continuing implementation of the NAIS.