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Following is a guest post from Robert Fourdraine, PhD, COO Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium:

Recent USDA listening sessions on the establishment of the National Animal Identification System have once again increased the debate if the United States should proceed with establishing a mandatory or continue with a voluntary national livestock disease traceability system. Although opinions differ on how livestock disease issues can be best addressed, and concerns about cost, confidentiality, technology, and practicality of the system remain, the need for improving our existing infra-structure to respond quickly to a disease outbreak has not decreased.

While the national debate seems to focus on the “if we should implement a system”, individual states and industry have made progress and addressed several of the concerns. One of those areas is technology. Based on input from the livestock industry and producers, most species recommend the use of some type of individual identifier for animals moving into commerce. Depending on the species and type of farm management, the use of a group/lot identifier could also be used to keep track of animals leaving the farm. The cattle industry would get the most value out of using a visible ear tagging system that can also be read electronically. In recent years great progress has been made integrating low frequency RFID technology (LF RFID) in herd management making the use of LF RFID more attractive to livestock producers. In the dairy industry for example a USDA official approved LF RFID can also be used for herd health checks, sorting animals, collecting parlor data, animal health programs, breed registry, etc.

By integrating the official ID tags in herd management and industry programs, the process of participating in a disease traceability system becomes not only more practical but also more cost effective and can also open up opportunities for livestock producers to participate in other value added programs.

Bottom line, integration with existing programs will result in minimizing the up front investment and the ongoing effort it will take for a producer to participate in a animal disease traceability program.

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