Released Sept. 7, 2007
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Scientists at Kansas State University have long been involved in many facets of livestock research, but now they taking their work a giant step further.
The establishment of the Kansas State University Center for Animal Identification will allow researchers to build on the work K-State has already begun in evaluating identification systems such as radio frequency to trace animal movement, said K-State animal science professor, Dale Blasi. He will work with other K-State faculty and students to carry out the center´s work.
"Our mission," Blasi said, "is to discover, develop and evaluate livestock identification technologies that might have economic value to livestock producers in Kansas and the United States."
The issue is particularly critical in Kansas, where the beef industry generated $6.25 billion in cash receipts and ranked first in the United States in commercial cattle processed in 2006, according to the Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service.
Blasi has headed the university´s Animal Identification Knowledge Laboratory since it was established in 2003. Underpinned by USDA funding, K-State established the lab to provide unbiased evaluation of animal identification technologies being considered by livestock industries. The new center is a logical way to expand on the lab´s efforts, he said.
The center will be based in K-State´s Department of Animal Sciences and Industry, where Blasi is a beef cattle specialist with K-State Research and Extension. Much of the work will be done at the university´s Beef Stocker Unit, where there is ready access to large numbers of livestock in typical livestock management situations.
The importance of the need to be able to trace an individual animal´s movements has become increasingly apparent during the past five years, he said. The foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in 2001 that rocked Britain´s livestock industry marked one of many high profile events that raised consumers´ consciousness about tracing animal movements. Since then, cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in Canada and the United States further reinforced the notion that the United States needed a way to be able to track an animal´s movement from the beginning of its life to the end.
In April, 2004, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a plan to implement a National Animal Identification System (NAIS), which will allow for rapid identification, containment, and eradication of potential foreign animal diseases.
That USDA action, in turn, sparked the development of new electronic and biometric animal identification technologies, which made the need for unbiased evaluation and dissemination of results on those technologies crucial, Blasi said.
In fact, in a July 2007 report, the Government Accountability Office(GAO) stated that the U.S. Department of Agriculture "needs to resolve several key implementation issues to achieve rapid and effective (animal) disease traceback." Among its findings were that "the USDA had not established a robust process for selecting, standardizing, and testing animal ID and tracking technologies."
"Our objective is to give producers good information on existing technologies, as well as any emerging technologies, to help them better manage their businesses," Blasi said.
"Animal Identification and traceability will be increasingly important to both domestic and international beef consumers in the coming decade," said Dee Likes, executive vice president of the Kansas Livestock Association, an organization that represents the business interests of more than 5,700 beef producers. "With the Center for Animal Identification, K-State is uniquely positioned to provide the foundation of knowledge and technical expertise for the beef industry to productively embrace the future."
Livestock producers are not the only group who will benefit from K- State´s new effort.
"The National Animal ID System has so many outstanding questions and concerns among the Livestock Marketing Association´s membership that we are very grateful to have a very professional, unbiased, science- based resource, within the Kansas State University Center for Animal Identification, to help us determine what animal identification technologies and its individual components work and do not work for livestock markets," said Nancy Robinson, vice president of government and industry affairs with the Livestock Marketing Association.
"The livestock industry and its various sectors and federal and state animal health officials would find it very difficult to move forward with a national animal ID program without the K-State Animal ID Center," Robinson said. The LMA is an organization of livestock marketing firms that provides industry information, insurance and legislative and regulatory services to its members.
"This (center) will also give K-State students the opportunity to learn about animal identification through working with us during internships and honors classes," Blasi said.
In addition, researchers plan to provide independent performance evaluation services to vendors of animal identification technology.
K-State collaborators in the new center include Kevin Dhuyvetter and Ted Schroeder in the department of agricultural economics; Jim Higgins in the department of statistics; and Tim Sobering in the electronics design laboratory.
Other collaborators include the Kansas Animal Health Department; the Kansas Department of Commerce; numerous meat packing companies; auction markets; and animal identification technology companies.
Contacts: Dale Blasi, (785) 532-5427
Mary Lou Peter-Blecha, firstname.lastname@example.org