By Caitlin Yoder and Danae Baskin
Every morning before the sun comes up, Gary Yoder, LaGrange, Ind., pulls on his boots and heads out to the barn. His animals are fed before he eats or even has his morning coffee.
Premises identification gives Yoder the ability to stay one step ahead of a disease outbreak to keep his cattle healthy. He still throws a saddle on his horse and rides out to the pasture to check on his herd. The world hasn’t woken up yet, and every soft snort the horse makes and the crunch of the earth beneath her hooves sounds like cannons in comparison to the quiet morning.
“I like starting my day knowing that my cattle are all healthy and where they are supposed to be,” Yoder says. “If there is an outbreak, all my cattle are tagged with a number that’s connected to my premises ID as well, that helps trace disease back for a quicker crackdown.”
Premises ID system
The Animal Disease Traceability system is a nationwide initiative created by USDA with the goal of allowing state and federal animal health officials to trace an animal’s movement history and animal diseases. Premises identification is required by the state of Indiana for any location associated with the sale, purchase or exhibition of livestock.
Species included are cattle, bison, cervids (deer), swine, sheep and goats. Some species that can be registered voluntarily include poultry, horses, camelids, ostrich, rheas and emus. Although poultry are currently voluntary, much of the poultry industry has been registered.
The database allows rapid traceback in the event of a disease concern or other emergency. When an outbreak occurs, the Indiana State Board of Animal Health contacts farmers to inform them, as well as attempts to find the source of disease.
Denise Derrer, public information director at BOAH, points out the benefits of premises identification that she has seen. When there is a crisis, premises identification helps BOAH and USDA manage that case and saves them time finding the source.
For example, if there is an outbreak in a certain area, the premises identification system allows BOAH to run a map of all the locations in a 10-mile radius from the infected farm that could be impacted. They can then inform those farms about the outbreak and precautions they must take.
“We don’t have to spend a lot of hours driving up and down roads and knocking on doors asking, ‘Excuse me, do you have cows?’ which is the old-fashioned way,” Derrer says. “That technology really helps us. The key is we have to know those farms are out there so we can get started.”
Prior to premises registration, BOAH could spend days or even weeks locating producers to notify them of an animal disease in their area. Thanks to premises identification, it only takes minutes or hours to send out those notifications.
A highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak in 2015 and 2016 brought the benefits of premises identification to the attention of both producers and BOAH. Indiana does not require poultry to be registered, but those who had registered were contacted immediately by BOAH’s staff. They also tested poultry at these registered sites to determine if the disease had spread. Those that were not registered were also tested. HPAI spreads rapidly in confinement chicken facilities and can infect the entire building very quickly; this disease requires a much faster response than 48 hours. There are currently more than 10,000 poultry premises registered voluntarily in Indiana. According to Derrer, BOAH is considering making poultry registration required in Indiana.
“That was the largest animal health emergency that we’ve had in the state,” Derrer says. “A lot of people register flocks voluntarily, including a lot of backyard or hobby flocks. The commercial industry has woken up to that call, and they’ve pretty much voluntarily registered because they see the value of it.”
Understand the value
Rick Davis, a beef cattle producer in Thorntown, Ind., also sees the benefits of premises identification. Davis believes it’s important to get more livestock producers to register and become educated about the benefits that premises identification provide for the producer.
According to Davis, many producers are hesitant because they think BOAH will use their information in a negative way, when it’s actually used to protect producers in the event of an outbreak.
“I would still use it if it wasn’t required,” he says. “I’m one of those people that needed to be educated and informed to understand the importance of it. I have neighbors and friends in my area that raise livestock, and I would not want something I did, or an unfortunate situation that got into my herd, to have a negative impact on them. It’s so important because what it allows the BOAH people and veterinarians to do is isolate the problem and get in contact with other producers in the area to protect them.”
Premises identification registration is a simple process. Producers can call BOAH or fill out a form on BOAH’s website. The information needed is the farmer’s address, name(s), telephone number(s), species and operation type. The property is then assigned a premises identification number. Updating premises information is needed if the property changes ownership, owner contact information changes, or species are added or removed from a premise.
Alicia Rode, public information specialist at BOAH, hopes producers will understand the benefits of premises identification. “Premises identification allows animal health officials to trace animal movements quickly and notify animal owners immediately when a disease of high consequence is detected in their animals or in animals on nearby farm,” Rode says.
Premises identification has helped in disease outbreaks, and has many benefits for the producer and animal health officials. It helps save animals, time and money. With the threat of disease always lurking in the distance, livestock farmers can rest assured knowing they have some backup helping them keep their animals healthy, Rode concludes.
Yoder and Baskin are seniors in the Purdue University Ag Communication program.