Several states– 20 to be exact– are conducting test runs of various aspects of USDA's National Animal Identification System. Most recently, the Texas Animal Health Commission has begun its premises identification program.

Under this state trial, every site in which live farm-based animals are are raised or kept will receive a unique 10-digit premises identification number. This will be the basis for the goal of 24-hour traceback in the event of an animal health emergency.

TAHC also is running a year-long study on the effectiveness, durability and reliability of radio frequency identification ear tags, the necessary scanners and readers, as well as information databases.

Bob Hillman, Texas state veterinarian and head of TAHC, noted that not only is it important for the database to be efficient and reliable for animal-health traceback purposes, but that it has to guarantee confidentiality.

The RFID program will involve 80,000 cattle, sheep, goats and domestic deer. The study will look at application requirements, and will involve both the farmer and the slaughterhouse to evaluate costs and time associated with tagging animals and collecting and reporting data.

When a tagged animal is sold or transferred, that data will be reported by e-mail, fax or surface mail to a third-party data-collection system. A significant part of the test will be determining how well data can be integrated between several databases, said Hillman.