October 10, 2003

 

 

Better Monitoring of Diseased Livestock

 

Digital Angel Corp. has signed a contract to provide the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) with electronic tracking devices that will allow the government agency to monitor and isolate diseased livestock before a major outbreak occurs.

 

South St. Paul-based Digital Angel said Tuesday that the USDA has ordered 300,000 units of a tracking system that the company won federal regulatory approval for earlier this year. The system includes a tiny microchip, which is about the size of a grain of rice, and an electronic ear tag.

 

This new tracking system will help health agencies to electronically monitor the birth, eating behavior and migrations of deer, domestic sheep and elk.

 

"It's harder to do it visually but electronically, it's automatic," said James Santelli, vice president and chief financial officer for the company.

 

Because of concerns over deadly diseases such as Chronic Wasting Disease, a neurological disease found in farmed elk in Minnesota and other states, the new tracking system may aid in further research for treatments.

 

"Like humans, they (mammals) can get colds, pneumonia and intestinal infections," said Scott Stuart, chief executive officer for the National Livestock Producers Association and member of the Steering Committee for the U.S. Animal Identification Plan, part of a group of 70 different industry organizations and the USDA. It is developing a national identification system for livestock to assist in health-related issues.

 

Stuart said electronic identification devices could help speed up the trace-back system in cases of epidemics like mad cow disease.

 

"For a system to work, there's got to be a very rapid data transfer and automated transfer system," Stuart said.

 

Santelli would not disclose the cost and contract details. He only revealed that the products' demand in the livestock industry could help the company move past its current slump.

 

"The RFID technology has been the backbone of the company," Santelli said.