25 February 2000

EUeid data – thats

the big IDEA

Whats the future for

livestock identification and

traceability? Emma Penny

found out at an MLC

conference at its Milton

Keynes HQ last week

LIVESTOCK identification and traceability are topics under investigation in many countries, with current EUtrials looking at electronic identification (eid). However, future research is likely to look at linking eid and DNA sampling to trace animals from birth to plate.

Speaking at the MLCs conference on Latest Developments in Livestock Identification and Traceability, Italian researcher Oriol Ribo, based at the ECs Joint Research Centre in Ispra, explained which projects he was involved in.

"The Joint Research Centre performs research activities which help in the fight against fraud. One of the solutions to reducing fraud is to apply an electronic identifier to animals, which they will carry throughout their lives and which can be read automatically."

The three-year IDEA project, which is being carried out in six EU member states, is looking at eid and more than 1m animals – cattle, sheep and goats – are currently electronically identified as part of the trial.

"The results should help the Commission take decisions on application techniques; injectable devices, ruminal boluses, or electronic eartags, reading methods, recovery techniques, device performance, organisation of the programme, as well as on processing and managing the information and database," said Dr Ribo.

Some results on device readability and re-tagging requirements have already been sent to the Joint Research Centre. So far, they suggest a loss rate of 0.11% for ruminal boluses, 0.18% for eartags and 0.07% for injectable devices.

However, Dr Ribo stressed that the result for injectable devices shouldnt be relied upon, as only 3500 animals carried that type of eid, while 300,000 animals carried rumen boluses, and 20,000 animals were tagged.

"Currently, there is little difference between species on eid loss rates. However, to get reliable conclusions we need to look at losses, breakages and electronic failures, as well as variables such as type of animal, tagging and reading data and equipment performance."

At the end of the project – likely to be in 2001 – future implementation of eid in the 300m-strong EU livestock population will be assessed, said Dr Ribo. "But eid should help control subsidy payments, animal health and intra-EU transport, as well as helping to automate farm management and improve farm productivity."

However, he admitted that while eid would allow animal traceability from birth to slaughter, when tags were removed at the abattoir trace-back was not assured. "This gives the possibility of fraud by interchanging animal identities or by introducing meat of unknown origin."

This is likely to be tackled with a new project which will evaluate a system to trace meat from slaughter to consumer using eid and DNA genetic analysis.

Under this project proposal, animals would be electronically tagged at birth, with all animal data recorded in a database. At the same time, a biological sample will be taken from the animal at birth and stored. At slaughter, a transponder with animal data will be stuck on the carcass, so each piece of meat will be identified, and a random cross-check between the meat and DNA sample will be done, said Dr Ribo.

STOCK IDENTIFICATION

&#8226 Electronic ID trials.

&#8226 Linked with DNA testing?

&#8226 Should reduce fraud.

STOCK IDENTIFICATION

&#8226 Electronic ID trials.

&#8226 Linked with DNA testing?

&#8226 Should reduce fraud.

Cattle, sheep and goats are part of the IDEAproject which will end in 2001, says Italian researcher Oriol Ribo.