N.M. Livestock Owners Urged to Microchip Animals

Livestock officials are urging cattlemen and owners of other large livestock to take advantage of a tracking program that will help the government control such diseases as mad cow disease.

Farmers and ranchers can register their large animals via a microchip-implanted "premise ID," which is entered into a U.S. Department of Agriculture directory for use in case of an outbreak of a disease.

The idea is not only to track disease, but also to reduce the impact of disease on farms and ranches that aren't affected by an outbreak.

The state Livestock Board is implementing the National Animal Identification System to track animals in case of severely contagious diseases such as equine viral arteritis (EVA), which swept through parts of New Mexico last year, said veterinarian Lee Gutierrez, DVM, of Roswell.

State officials said the outbreak of the respiratory and abortogenic disease in horses appeared to be contained to about 10% of New Mexico's 265 horse breeding farms.

The free, voluntary identification program is available for such large animals as pigs, goats, sheep and cattle, Gutierrez said.

"At this point (registration) is voluntary and it is free. There will be a point where it may become required and won't be free," he said.

Livestock owners currently must have health certificates to transport or sell livestock, but Gutierrez said that someday a premise ID number will be required as well.

The microchips, injected by a veterinarian under the skin of the animal's neck, are about the size of a grain of rice. Microchips contain the ID number, which can be read by a scanner.

Premise ID registration would have made recent quarantines for vesicular stomatitis easier by allowing inspectors to shut down only the property affected by the outbreak, Gutierrez said.

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The Associated Press


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