Collections > Master's Papers > Gillings School of Public Health > A Policy Recommendation Regarding the National Animal Identification System within the United States
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Individual identification of livestock within the U.S. is not a new concept. It has been documented in large animal production industries dating back to the late 1800's and early 1900's (Richey, 2005) Cattle ranchers, to indicate ownership and deter theft, first used hot iron branding. Hot iron branding was also used on horses. Swine were identified through small triangle shaped notches made in their ear. The initial livestock diseases to receive attention within the United States, with a Public Health implication, were Brucellosis and Tuberculosis. A Surveillance Program was established for both diseases. Efforts to eradicate brucellosis caused by Brucella abortus in the United States began in 1934 (Ragan, 2002). In the beginning the program began with routine blood testing of cattle herds. Later, blood was collected at slaughter for testing purposes. Identified herds were quarantined. Producers were given an option of either continued routine testing of animals with removal to slaughter of those testing positive or sell the herd to the government for slaughter. Concurrent vaccination of heifer calves against Brucellosis also contributed to the decline of this disease in the cattle population. At the dawn of the twentieth century, Tuberculosis was the leading cause of death in the United States among humans (Olmstead 2004). The tuberculosis eradication program officially began in the United States in 1917. At that time it was estimated that 1 out of every 20 cattle slaughtered had bovine tuberculosis (Bruning-Fann, 1998). Most human cases were associated with the consumption of unpasteurized milk. The primary method of identification of cattle within these disease programs was via a metal ear tag. Orange colored tags were applied to calves when vaccinated for Brucellosis and metal ear tags were applied at the time animals were blood tested. A critical component of a successful surveillance program is permanent animal identification (Ragan, 2002). Over the years, as these diseases have been brought under control, fewer cattle (livestock) have been permanently identified. Today, less than 10% of cattle are vaccinated for Brucellosis. During this same time period, personnel within individual States Department of Agriculture have decreased as have United States Department of Agriculture personnel. In December 2003, a cow was identified as the first within the United States to be diagnosed with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). After a six week investigation, U.S. authorities announced that they were ending their BSE field investigation after identifying only 28 of 80 cows that had entered the United States from Canada with the BSE cow (Becker, 2006). To address current and future disease concerns, a national animal identification system was proposed. A key goal of this plan was to identify all animals and premises potentially exposed to a foreign animal disease, or a domestic disease of concern within forty eight hours of discovery. Such a program would be valuable to the United States efforts to identify and contain diseases among livestock.