Animal Traceability & ID

WLIC was created to support the development of a national animal identification system to facilitate speedy "trace back" and "trace forward" efforts to reduce the impact of livestock disease introductions, thereby protecting the animal industries of the United States. 

How can an animal identification system protect America's livestock industries? 

An effective and efficient animal identification system is the foundation of being able to perform proper trace back and trace forward investigations during a disease outbreak. This helps to ensure the spread of the disease can be controlled with the least impact to individual producers and the industry as a whole. 

Many diseases of concern are of concern because they can spread very fast, one example is Foot & Mouth Disease (FMD).

Much like a fire on one's stove at home, the sooner the fire can be controlled the less damage is done.  A strong animal ID system allows diseases to be tracked and controlled much more quickly than if there were no system, or if a poor system is in place. 

There are three main things to consider when evaluating the impact of a disease outbreak:

  1. Immediate cost to individual producers for treating sick animals and the threat of introduction from affected animals.
  2. Movement restrictions imposed on animals and products within the same area, state, region, or country due to a disease outbreak.
  3. Lost markets for animals and products.

The impacts in all three of these areas are a function of:

  1. How fast regulators can identify that there is an outbreaks.
  2. How fast regulators can figure out where the outbreak began (trace back to the farm of origin).
  3. How fast regulators can identify where exposed animals have gone so that potential spread can be limited (trace forward).

The speed with which tasks two and three above can be performed is dependent on how fast involved animals can be identified and traced.  A strong animal identification system is the best way to minimize the time for trace backs and trace forwards, and thereby reducing the impacts of a disease introduction.

Who/What is at risk?

Outbreaks of disease cost the producer money beyond the cost of treating sick animals and replacing animals which die.  If the disease is one which is regulated, it can result in significant losses due to mandated testing by regulatory authorities as they try to establish where the disease is and isn't, and increased testing requirements prior to inter-state movement. A recent example involves TB. If TB is found in a few herds in a state, it may lead to required testing for all interstate movement from the state.

In order to control the spread of a disease like Foot & Mount Disease (FMD), regulators may restrict movement of animals and animal products within quarantine zones.  Depending on the size of the outbreak, much of Wisconsin could be included in a quarantine zone.  In 2011, Wisconsin produced 26.1 billion pounds of raw milk, which translates into about 1,500 trucks per day carrying 50,000 pounds of milk!

How long can the dairy industry survive restricted movement of this much product? Other livestock sectors would be similarly affected.

The biggest potential impact is the loss of our export markets from trade restrictions, and lost consumer confidence. 

Exports are crucial to the wellbeing of both Wisconsin's, and the USA's agricultural industries.  Wisconsin's Congressional Representative Ron Kind was quoted in a November 12, 2012 article in the Wisconsin Ag Connection as saying "Wisconsin exported a record $2.85 billion worth of agricultural products in 2011, an increase of 18 percent over 2010."  As exports play an increasingly important role in Wisconsin agriculture it becomes imperative that we adopt a robust animal identification system to protect our participation in export markets. 

The cost to the industry of a disease outbreak is related to how fast the introduction is identified and the spread controlled. 

In a paper published in the Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigations in January 2011, Carpenter, and et.al. estimated that the cost of a Foot & Mouth Disease outbreak in California would cost approximately $2.3 billion if the disease were caught in seven days, but would increase to more than $69 billion of it took 21 days or more to recognize the disease. 

This is a 30 fold increase in cost due to a delay of 14 days.  There are several studies estimating the effects of an introduction of a highly contagious livestock disease into the U.S.  In every one of these studies time to identification of the outbreak, and time to eradication of the disease are the primary factors affecting the magnitude of the damage to the livestock industry.

Wisconsin has a strong livestock industry.  It depends on animals and animal products moving freely within the state, interstate, and internationally.  A strong, robust animal ID system is crucial to minimizing the damage of a disease introduction!