Why is participation in Farm Animal Identification and Records (FAIR) recommended as part of a farm's biosecurity measures?
A permanent method of individual animal identification such as a metal tag, breed registration tag, or electronic identification facilitates tracking an animal's location and health history. Having a unique national identification number further expedites this process once an animal leaves its herd of origin. A national animal identification number can be thought of as a social security number for animals.
The national FAIR system benefits producers and consumers in terms of biosecurity and food safety. Rapid identification and trace back of affected or exposed animals in the case of an outbreak of a foreign animal disease like Foot and Mouth Disease or Mad Cow Disease can limit the extent of economic damage to the animal industry. Trace back mechanisms in cases of food borne diseases will ensure farmers are not held responsible for a problem originating on someone else's farm.
When a herd enrolls in the FAIR system, information about their farm's location is entered into the database and matched with a state premises identification number. Individual American Identification Numbers are then generated. The premises and individual animal numbers, as well as the farm's own management numbers, are printed on visible tags, encoded in a bar code, and can be programmed into a radio frequency (RF) tag.
The FAIR system is designed to be compatible with standard on-farm computerized record keeping systems. With an RF reader, the RF tags can be used in day-to-day management systems to facilitate the recording of animal events.
At this time, buying RF tags is optional and not required to participate in the FAIR system. The Holstein Association USA is supporting the FAIR system by allowing registered herds buying tags through them to request FAIR tags instead.
Hundreds of herds across the country are participating in the FAIR system as of mid-2003. The majority of animals in the FAIR database are from California, Wisconsin, New York, and Pennsylvania where the program was first offered. Michigan is using FAIR RF tags to facilitate tracking of animal movements as part of the state's tuberculosis control program. Visit the FAIR Web site or call the National FAIR Team located at the Holstein Association USA in Brattleboro, VT, at 800-952-5200 ext. 4062 to learn how you can enroll in the program.