USDA plans automated animal ID system to speed response to outbreaks

USDA plans automated animal ID system to speed response to outbreaks

The Agriculture Department said it is developing an automated animal identification system that will speed up the task of tracing animals through the livestock marketing chain in investigations such as the one that erupted last week.

But USDA had to trace back through paper purchase and health records to find the cow that recently tested positive for the virus that causes bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly referred to as mad cow disease.

The department is in the preliminary stages of creating the animal ID system through an industry-state-federal partnership, a USDA spokeswoman said. Developing the system is complicated. 'What works well for (identifying) one species won't work well for others,' said Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service spokeswoman Dore Mobley.

The system will include radio frequency ID tags for animals and databases for animal and facilities identification. The partners working on the project released a work plan in the fall. States are expected to have a premises identification system in place by July. Canada has had an identification program in place for three years, Mobley said.

When completed, the system will identify animals individually or by groups, and list their location and when they arrived there. Agriculture officials will be able to retrieve that information within 48 hours of confirmation of a disease outbreak to control health threats. In the recent case of the mad cow disease virus, a laborious search through paper records took USDA five days to trace back to the animal in question.

Visit for more information on the animal ID system.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.


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