August 2005 -- The deadline for submitting comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture?s Request for Comments pertaining to the National Animal Identification System (NAIS); Notice of Availability of a Draft Strategic Plan and Draft Program Standards expired on July 6. The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) submitted industry remarks in compliance with policy set forward by the board of directors, which endorses the concept of a mandatory national identification program for livestock.
?The sheep industry is committed to enhanced disease prevention, control and surveillance, which will be accomplished through modern animal identification and tracking systems. Animal identification has been a key component of the national accelerated scrapie-eradication program since it began approximately three years ago,? states the comments.
Due to the implementation of the scrapie program, the sheep industry has an animal identification system in place today that largely accomplishes the goals, key components and guiding principles stated in the NAIS Draft Strategic Plan.
In the process of implementing the scrapie program, many lessons were learned regarding ear-tag use, size, placement, retention and environmental effects, multi-functionality readability and distribution. The current system is basically a visual-based tracking system; however, the industry is very interested in pursuing the discovery and testing of a more automated, accurate and high-throughput identification system. To date, there are no such proven systems available for sheep.
For the foreseeable future, 48-hour traceability can be best accomplished for breeding sheep by using the current scrapie-identification system. It is recommended that market animals not currently covered in the scrapie program can be traced with the addition of group/lot identification. Ear tags for the scrapie program would continue to have the scrapie flock number printed on them and would be linked to the NAIS number in the central database.
Realistically, some species will be able to achieve compliance quicker than others. The sheep industry believes it is appropriate to set reasonable goals for implementing NAIS for each species and work toward industry-wide implementation on a uniform-compliance date that is recognized as being achievable and reasonable by each industry.
The document containing the full comments can be viewed from the ASI home page at: www.sheepusa.org. Those interested in reading the comments submitted by others, can go on-line to http://animalid.aphis.usda.gov/nais/.