Colorado State University Student Addresses U. S. Secretary of Agriculture on Animal Identification

A Colorado State University student was part of roundtable discussion this week with U. S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). CSU sophomore Tyler Robertson of Rangely, Colo. offered his opinion in a meeting at the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service office in Fort Collins that included industry representatives, producers and others.  

Robertson represented his family ranch – Twin Buttes Ranch Company – where since the mid-1990’s some 1,200 head of cattle annually have been tagged at birth. The ear tags are a form of electronic identification that includes information about the country of origin and area of country where the cattle were born. It allows ranchers, industry representatives and animal health officials to track the whereabouts of cattle. The tags are especially useful during times of an infectious disease outbreak so that animals can be traced and determined if they have mixed with other cattle.

The NAIS, which had been in place since 2004, is currently a voluntary animal traceability system that enables producers and animal health officials to respond quickly and effectively to animal disease events in the United States. Questions such as the cost, impact on small farmers, privacy and confidentiality and liability have been raised about NAIS.

Robertson, a Department of Animal Sciences major at CSU, urged the secretary to develop workable solutions that will benefit the next generation of ranchers.

"We fully support the implementation of NAIS using a voluntary system with incentives approach," Robertson said. "We strongly feel that cow/calf producers will more willingly adopt NAIS standard for their routine management needs if USDA could provide incentives, such as third party certification for age and source verification and/or the ability to report animal movement data to a government data base at no cost."

Robertson added that a two-year window should be given to the cattle industry using the "voluntary with incentives" approach in order to get the industry to a 70 percent participation rate before NAIS becomes mandatory.

This was the second in a series of listening sessions the USDA will hold throughout the country on the subject so the department can gather feedback and input that will assist the secretary in making decisions about the future direction of animal identification and traceability in the United States.