A Helping Hand Against Identity Theft

US - With Identity theft becoming an issue amongst cattle producers in the UK, the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) have released a possible solution now that the availability of biometric and genetic testing for cattle cover a range of applications for farmers and other sectors of the agri-food industry.
calendar icon 5 February 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

In the research project, funded by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), AFBI’s Veterinary Sciences Division has developed and evaluated two biometric methods for the identification of livestock. These methods of retinal scanning for cattle and sheep and DNA profiling for cattle can significantly improve the performance of tag-based identification schemes and can also track animal products further into the production chain.

According to AFBI, Identification and traceability of livestock and their products is extremely important for animal disease control and public health. Conventional identification is based on national databases of unique ear-tags, recognised internationally as extremely valuable for tracing animal movement, managing grants and subsidies and providing assurance to the consumer and regulatory authorities. Current identification methods are based on tracing a device (ear-tag, electronic-ID ear-tag, bolus or transponder) attached to, or introduced into, an animal. These devices can become separated from the intended animal and identity and traceability is compromised, often with significant consequences to the herd owner.

Biometric identification is based on recording unique and unalterable biological properties of an animal, thereby uniquely identifying and tracing the animal itself. New technologies are now available for use in support of conventional identification and can be used to help with problems of identity and traceability.

DNA tests can be performed on a range of different sample types including blood, hair, semen and muscle/meat. These tools offer the industry custom traceability solutions that can be tailored to meet industry and stakeholder needs. All testing is certified to the ISO 9001:2000 standard.

Available applications include:

  • DNA sample storage to prevent cattle identity loss

    The persistent loss of cattle ear-tags is inconvenient and potentially can have significant and costly consequences. AFBI can now offer a cost-effective solution, where either individual animals or whole herds can be registered on a DNA database, managed securely by AFBI. Should any registered animals subsequently lose their tags, DNA tests can then be used to confirm their identity. Through this scheme, herd-owners can protect themselves against identity loss and associated commercial losses.

  • Theft Deterrence for valuable commercial/pedigree animals.

    AFBI can register unique retinal images, and/or DNA profiles, of cattle and sheep to deter/prevent subsequent manipulation of identity should stock be stolen.

  • Cattle DNA parentage testing for farmers and breed societies.

    AFBI offers competitive DNA parentage testing which enables breed societies, co-operatives and individual farmers to confirm the parentage of pedigree and commercial animals.

  • Cattle DNA testing for Freemartinism.

    A Heifer calf born as a twin to a bull is typically a “Freemartin” and as such will be infertile. AFBI offers rapid and cost-effective DNA-based tests that detect Freemartinism with 90% certainty and allows the herd-keeper to make informed management decisions without having to wait for the animal to mature sufficiently for veterinary inspection.

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