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High-Tech Animal Database Launched to Help Ensure U.S. Livestock Producers Maintain Competitive Edge in the Global Marketplace


Industry-led national animal movement database meets government requirements while helping to protect livestock producers’ confidential information.

WASHINGTON — March 1, 2006 — The U.S. Animal Identification Organization (USAIO), ViaTrace LLC and Microsoft Corp. today announced the launch of an industry-led, multispecies animal tracking database to record movements of livestock from point of origin to processing. This cutting-edge, user-friendly database, developed by ViaTrace and operated on a Microsoft® platform, will give federal and state animal health authorities access to vital information in the event of a disease outbreak or animal health-related incident.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has publicly expressed his support for a private, industry-led approach to developing a national animal movement database because such a system would help ensure that producers retain ownership and control of their confidential business data. In addition, he has stated that helping to safeguard the health of livestock is vital to U.S. competitiveness in the world marketplace and protecting the livelihood of U.S. producers who depend on exports of their products to other countries.
The database will be operated by the USAIO, a nonprofit, independent consortium whose goal is to involve multiple species producer groups in managing its day-to-day operation. The USAIO will work with livestock associations, data service providers and animal health authorities to encourage producer participation. The USAIO board includes representatives from beef cattle and bison associations as well as regional identification networks, and will grow as other livestock producers and species groups get involved.
“Livestock producers have recognized the need for a workable identification and tracking system for disease surveillance purposes, which affect our marketplace, both domestically and overseas,” said USAIO Chairman Charles Miller, a beef producer from Nicholasville, Ky. “This system is designed to be confidential, cost-effective and easy to operate for the industry while giving state and federal animal health authorities the information they require to trace back livestock information in a timely fashion.”
The database was developed by ViaTrace, a leading developer of traceability software for government and industry, and has begun its initial phase of accepting data. During this phase, data is being collected from existing state and association projects. Pilot projects sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) have been under way in 17 states in the Northwest and Southeast U.S. since January 2005, and have resulted in the gathering of a significant amount of data in those regions. In addition, the National Bison Association has collected data on bison from 10 states to date.
The second phase of bringing the system online, which is expected to begin in the third quarter of 2006, will allow individual producers to input data about their herds directly. During this phase, producers will have a range of options for entering data about their animals and herds, from using a mobile, wireless device in the field, such as an HP iPAQ Pocket PC, to using their home or office PC, or even using the telephone or paper-based forms to submit their information. The first step for producers who want to participate in the system is to contact their state veterinarian or animal-health professional to register for a premises ID.
“Our system, ViaHerd, came out of one of the most extensive multinational research projects ever undertaken concerning animal identification, movement and disease control,” said Joe Queenan, vice president and founder of ViaTrace. “The system is multilingual, multispecies, fully customizable, and included direct input from Microsoft’s leading software experts. We are honored to work with the USAIO and to support the livestock producers of America in this challenging initiative.”
This animal identification system has the potential to be one of the largest private databases ever to go online, so it is essential that the underlying platform include the most advanced technologies to help ensure that the system has improved security, is flexible and is capable of managing large amounts of information from a variety of devices. For this reason, ViaTrace selected Microsoft® SQL Server™ 2005 as the database platform on which to run the system, as well as other Microsoft software including Visual Studio® 2005, Windows Server™ 2003, Windows Mobile®, Microsoft Office 2003, Microsoft Windows® XP and Internet Explorer.
“Microsoft is proud that ViaTrace chose our products as the foundation for the animal tracking database,” said Curt Kolcun, general manager for Microsoft Federal. “The ViaTrace alliance reflects our commitment to providing innovative technology solutions to business and government.”
The effort to develop an industry-led, private animal identification database was originally driven by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) out of their members’ concern about data confidentiality and the speed with which government animal identification systems could be implemented. Many in the livestock industry felt that the demands of the marketplace dictated the need to have a viable, proven system in place as soon as possible.
Because of the importance Secretary of Agriculture Johanns places on animal identification, the newly launched system conforms to the guidelines set out by the USDA’s National Animal Identification System (NAIS).
Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, expressed support for an industry-led system: “I like to see the free market work, and I want to see the nation’s ranchers succeed. America’s livestock producers, ViaTrace and Microsoft are to be commended for their initiative in swiftly deploying a robust system that strengthens the value of our nation’s livestock products and is highly beneficial to producers, animal health authorities and government regulators.”
An increasing number of domestic and international buyers are requesting source and age verification of the livestock they purchase, and having a database in place is essential to maintain the value of U.S. products and help producers stay competitive.
The database system will also allow animal health officials to trace individual animals to their source within 48 hours in the event of a disease outbreak or other events that affect animal health, including a bioterror attack.
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