Improving traceability: Equine industry explores microchipping, universal data platform
“Equine traceability is the ability to use positive identification to track a horse in all areas of its life, from birth to death, regardless of the organization that compiles information surrounding that identity,” says Equicore, LLC CEO Summer Stoffel.
According to Stoffel, identification and traceability are the core foundation of every facet of the equine industry. While many avenues of positive identification are used in the industry, including brands and tattoos, microchipping is currently becoming a hot topic in the equine industry.
Promoting equine traceability through the use of microchipping has many potential benefits, including disease control and prevention.
Wyoming State Veterinarian Jim Logan explains, while not commonly used in the state, Wyoming has successfully used microchipping to identify horses testing positive for piroplasmosis.
“We placed microchips in those animals to have positive identification, make sure the correct horses were being tested and ensure somebody hadn’t switched the horses out or that type of thing,” he says.
According to Stoffel, improving equine traceability would also promote industry growth through increasing consumer confidence.
“Improved traceability improves consumer confidence by increasing transparency, and it also improves fair play in sports formats,” comments Stoffel.
Natural disaster and theft are other important aspects that equine traceability would aid in, she says.
“Whether we’re a breed organization, sports federation, private practitioner or horse owner, at some point or another, the horses we deal with can possibly be threatened in one of these areas,” she states.
According to Stoffel, microchipping has been a hot topic for many equine organizations, both nationally and internationally.
“There were different types of chips being used, and we found there were a lot of breeders who were already using nine-digit numeric or 10-digit alphanumeric codes for identification for their own purposes,” she says.
The international standard for microchips with the Federation Equestre Internationale, United States Equestrian Federation and the European Union (EU) is now a 15-digit numeric-only microchip.
“The chip number ties the animal to the original passport-issuing organization, which is basically the foundation of the animal’s identity in their system,” continued Stoffel.
A historical problem in the industry and one of the World Horse Identification Recording Data Exchange Commission’s (WHIRDEC) primary concerns is the use of various microchips in the industry where the starting number is the manufacturer’s code rather than using an international code.
“They don’t know whether to call Germany or France to track down the horse’s passport, and they don’t know if the original passport was lost,” she says.
Previously, the industry attempted to solve the problem by inserting a second chip with an international code but has now begun to work on sharing data between EU countries and abroad.
Stoffel explains there are multiple roadblocks and challenges facing the equine industry as it tries to move toward a universal traceability program.
“The major sector here in the United States are unregistered recreational horses. When we’re talking about terms of biosecurity, disease prevention and control, that’s actually one of our largest roadblocks here in the United States,” she says.
Inaccurate data recording, lack of documentation and human error are some other challenges, says Stoffel.
The lack of implementation of a central data platform is another large challenge for the equine industry, both locally and on a large scale.
Logan says, “There are different factions of the horse industry, both in Wyoming and the country, that are well organized within their own small entity, but they’re not altogether well organized.”
The lack of microchip scanners throughout the industry, as well as no required placement location, can also add to the challenges of accepted widespread use of microchips.
With an eye toward the future, Stoffel comments that the equine industry is seeking to utilize a central data platform for information varying from performance data to medical history, with individual identification at its core.
“This is different than a database, so to speak, because a platform networks and aggregates data from multiple databases through data engineering and algorithms,” she said. “Some of these benefits can be reporting, business intelligence analytics and a higher level of positive horse identification.”
Logan notes he hopes microchipping will become widely accepted and used in Wyoming, but expects, “It will probably be a long time coming.”
“The challenges are because of a lack of industry-wide organization, and right now, there isn’t any requirement to have that,” concludes Logan. “I hope there’s a future for it, especially in regulatory issues like piroplasmosis and some of the important diseases that are more heavily regulated.”
Stoffel spoke during a presentation during the 2017 National Institute for Animal Agriculture Equine Forum. Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.