Indiana Pork Leader Says Animal Identification Crucial

First step is premises identification. Tom J. Bechman

Published on: Jan 16, 2006

If you have livestock of any kind, you will need to take part in the premises location effort underway by the Indiana Board of Animal Health. Designed to simply prepare a comprehensive map of everywhere where livestock are located in the state, it's the first step toward an Animal Identification Program. The Indiana Board of Animal Health has set a goal of completing the premises identification phase by September '06.

"Animal Identification system is absolutely essential," says Keith Berry, Greencastle. "We must do this as a livestock industry." Berry and family operate a farrow-to-finish swine operation and raise grain in Putnam County. He is immediate past-president of the National Pork Producers Council. NPPC is responsible for dealing with and supporting solutions to issues vital to pork producers all across the country.

"We must have animal identification to aid in combating the outbreak of a disease, such as foot and mouth disease," Berry says. From studies he's soon, such an outbreak could spread quickly, and could be catastrophic. It would cut across a variety of species.

Pork producers are already taking many steps that would be needed to combat a widespread disease outbreak of any catastrophic disease, he notes. That's because many of those measures were implemented as pork producers banded together to control and then eradicate pseudorabies from various sections of geography. But he believes it's important for all segments of the livestock industry to band together and make animal identification a reality.

The BSE outbreak in cattle dating back to the Christmas Eve case of the single dairy cow that came from Canada in December '04 brought the need for animal identification to a head. Proponents argue that there must be a way to track animals to exactly where they originated. It's all part of helping reduce chances for quick spread of a disease should an outbreak occur. Perhaps just as important, it's part of reassuring the public that their U.S. meat supply is safe.

The impact of a disease outbreak gone awry could be devastating to pork producers, Berry insists. He reasons that 12% or current U.S. pork production is exported. If a disease outbreak gone out of control occurred, it's almost a sure bet that other countries would close their borders to pork coming from the U.S. He believes that action would depress live hog prices nearly overnight. Suddenly there would be 12% more pork to find a home for. That could take markets a long time to work through.

Premise identification, the first step, amounts to locating on a map in each county the exact physical location and address of anyone with animals, including 4-H animals. Steve Nichols, retiring county Extension educator in Carroll County, helped pilot identifying locations of all animals in his county a couple of years ago. Working with local emergency officials and local vets, he aided in preparing a map of every location where animals existed. His efforts helped demonstrate that preparing such a map, while time-consuming, is possible.

Look to hear more about premises identification as '06 unfolds.