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Special Report: ID-INFO Expo in Kansas City

Several issues are being covered at this expo. Here's a rundown of hot topics.

U.S. needs to be in front of animal diseases

The National Animal Identification System (NAIS) is about animal identification and traceability and animal health, and identification and traceability are critical for animal disease response, Dr. John R. Clifford, deputy administrator for the veterinary services division at the Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service, said in opening the conference Tuesday. "We have to get out in front of disease. We can't be chasing disease," and the best way to get in front is to have one national system with "a common denominator" that crates or ties together identification programs to locate animals during a disease response, he said.

NAIS is being developed to identify and trace animals back to farms, ranches and other locations of origin within 48 hours in the event of an animal disease or other public emergency. It covers all food, game, performance and research animals.

Canadian program not an 'easy sale'

The Canadian Livestock Identification & Traceability Program has three components similar to NAIS -- premises identification, animal identification and "movement," or traceability -- program executive director Julie Stitt said in following Clifford in the opening session. Beginning in 1998 and fully implemented in 2002, the mandatory program covers cattle, hogs, lambs and goats, she said, adding that as it was implemented prior to any animal disease emergencies, "it was not an easy sale." However, she said there was a 65-75% "voluntary uptake, with compliance today at 99.13%."

British program works at 'touch of a button'

The U.S. has to resolve issues surrounding NAIS -- why have it, who will be involved, who will pay for it and how much and will it be mandatory or voluntary -- "but I can tell you that we are very glad that we did" resolve those issues in implementing the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS), U.K. dairy farmer Raymond Brown told the conference attendees. He said BCMS works "at the touch of a button," and it was this button that contained the outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD) so effectively this month because BCMS knew no exposed animals had moved off the affected farms and could isolate those animals and target resources toward a resolution. BCSM "was a costly hassle," Brown said, "but I am uncomfortable at the thought of being without it."

'Precise' animal identification system needed

"Randomized data" that are based on surveys and not a rigorous animal identification program "always underestimate" the number of animals infected with a disease, Dr. Clair Thunes of the Center for Animal Disease Modeling & Surveillance (CADMS) at the University of California at Davis said in reporting a CADMS FMD simulation. A "precise" animal identification system will always be more accurate and effective in responding to animal disease, she said.

Identification's 'fun stuff' worth premiums

The "fun stuff" related to animal identification and traceability begins when these components are used to promote value addition, IMI Global founder and executive vice president Leann Saunders said in remarks about what lies beyond an animal identification system. Identification and tracking give a product "credence attributes," i.e., proof of something that consumers cannot determine by just looking at the product, and these attributes can be used to increase demand and capture premiums, she said.

She reported that a cattle sales study at Superior Livestock Sales found that age and source verification earned premiums averaging $1.77/cwt. in 2006 and is winning premiums of $2.00-5.00/cwt. this year, and verification of non-hormone treated cattle is worth $6.00-10.00/c
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