May 25, 2005
More and more cows around the state are finding their identity, and just like many teenagers, it is in the form of a piercing.
Virginia is launching a test pilot animal identification system, where an animal's birth place, whereabouts and vaccinations will all be recorded in a database.
The information is tracked by a radio frequency tag with the animal equivalent of a Social Security number on it.
"The ear tags just have a chip with that number in. The key is the database, which keeps the information in it," explained Orange Country Extension Agent Steve Hopkins.
In the final phase of the three phase project, officials will be able to tell where an animal was born and track where it has been all its life. The purpose of the project is to act fast if there is a disease outbreak.
"If you had an animal outbreak such as Foot and Mouth or BSE, what they would do within 48 hours is pull that animal or animals up on the database and identify where that animal has been all its life, and who were the other animals at any given location that it was with, and quarantine those animals and quickly get a handle on a disease outbreak," said Hopkins.
Currently, the program is voluntary, but will be mandatory nationwide by 2009.
However, farmers think most will jump on the bandwagon because some countries only buy source-identified animals, and large retailers such as Wal-Mart and McDonald's are starting to do the same, making tagged animals a hot commodity.
"Hopefully we will see the price go up on the cattle. We have a good price right now, but with source-verified cattle, we will probably see a couple dollars more," said Louisa County cattle farmer Tom Hanley.
Farmers are urged to register their farms online at www.vdacs.virginia.gov, or at your county extension office.