Terrestrial Animal Health Code

Contents | Index Chapter 4.1. SECTION 4. Chapter 4.3.

Chapter 4.2.

Design and implementation of identification systems to achieve animal traceability

Article 4.2.1.

Introduction and objectives

These recommendations are based on the general principles presented in Article 4.1.1. The recommendations outline for Member Countries the basic elements that need to be taken into account in the design and implementation of an animal identification system to achieve animal traceability. Whatever animal identification system the country adopts, it should comply with relevant OIE standards, including Chapters 5.10. to 5.12. for animals and animal products intended for export. Each country should design a programme in accordance with the scope and relevant performance criteria to ensure that the desired animal traceability outcomes can be achieved.

Article 4.2.2.


For the purpose of this chapter:

Desired outcomes’: describe the overall goals of a programme and are usually expressed in qualitative terms, e.g. ‘to help ensure that animals or animal products are safe and suitable for use’. Safety and suitability for use could be defined in terms such as animal health, food safety, trade and aspects of animal husbandry.

Performance criteria’: are specifications for performance of a programme and are usually expressed in quantitative terms, such as ‘all animals can be traced to the establishment of birth within 48 hours of an enquiry’.

Reporting’: means advising the Veterinary Authority and other partner organisations as appropriate in accordance with the procedures listed in the programme.

Scope’: specifies the targeted species, population or production or trade sector within a defined area (country, zone) or compartment that is the subject of the identification and traceability programme.

Transhumance’: means periodic or seasonal movements of animals between different pastures within or between countries.

Article 4.2.3.

Key elements of the animal identification system

  1. Desired outcomes

    Desired outcomes should be defined through consultation between the Veterinary Authority and interested parties, which should include those in the animal production and processing chain, private sector veterinarians, scientific research organisations and other public and private organisations. Desired outcomes may be defined in terms of any or all of the following:

    1. animal health (e.g. disease surveillance and notification; detection and control of disease; vaccination programmes);

    2. public health (e.g. surveillance and control of zoonotic diseases and food safety);

    3. management of emergencies e.g. natural catastrophies or man-made events;

    4. trade (support for inspection and certification activities of Veterinary Services, as described in Chapters 5.10. to 5.12. which reproduce model international veterinary certificates);

    5. aspects of animal husbandry such as animal performance, and genetic data.

  2. Scope

    Scope should also be defined through consultation between the Veterinary Authority and other parties, as discussed above. The scope of animal identification systems is often based on the definition of a species and sector, to take account of particular characteristics of the farming systems e.g. pigs in pork export production; poultry in a defined compartment; cattle within a defined FMD free zone. Different systems will be appropriate in accordance with the production systems used in countries and the nature of their industries and trade.

  3. Performance criteria

    Performance criteria are also designed in consultation with other parties, as discussed above. The performance criteria depend on the desired outcomes and scope of the programme. They are usually described in quantitative terms in accordance with the epidemiology of the disease. For example, some countries consider it necessary to trace susceptible animals within 24–48 hours when dealing with highly contagious diseases such as FMD and avian influenza. For food safety, animal tracing to support investigation of incidents may also be urgent. For chronic animal diseases that are not zoonoses, it may be considered appropriate that animals can be traced over a longer period.

  4. Preliminary studies

    In designing animal identification systems it is useful to conduct preliminary studies, which should take into account:

    1. animal populations, species, distribution, herd management,

    2. farming and industry structures, production and location,

    3. animal health,

    4. public health,

    5. trade issues,

    6. aspects of animal husbandry,

    7. zoning and compartmentalisation,

    8. animal movement patterns (including transhumance),

    9. information management and communication,

    10. availability of resources (human and financial),

    11. social and cultural aspects,

    12. stakeholder knowledge of the issues and expectations,

    13. gaps between current enabling legislation and what is needed long term,

    14. international experience,

    15. national experience,

    16. available technology options,

    17. existing identification systems,

    18. expected benefits from the animal identification systems and animal traceability and to whom they accrue,

    19. issues pertaining to data ownership and access rights,

    20. reporting requirements.

    Pilot projects may form part of the preliminary study to test the animal identification system and animal traceability and to gather information for the design and the implementation of the programme.

    Economic analysis may consider costs, benefits, funding mechanisms and sustainability.

  5. Design of the programme

    1. General provisions

      The programme should be designed in consultation with the stakeholders to facilitate the implementation of the animal identification system and animal traceability. It should take into account the scope, performance criteria and desired outcomes as well as the results of any preliminary study.

      All the specified documentation should be standardised as to format, content and context.

      To protect and enhance the integrity of the system, procedures should be incorporated into the design of the programme to prevent, detect and correct errors e.g. use of algorithms to prevent duplication of identification numbers and to ensure plausibility of data.

    2. Means of animal identification

      The choice of a physical animal or group identifier should consider elements such as the durability, human resources, species and age of the animals to be identified, required period of identification, cultural aspects, animal welfare, technology, compatibility and relevant standards, farming practices, production systems, animal population, climatic conditions, resistance to tampering, trade considerations, cost, and retention and readability of the identification method.

      The Veterinary Authority is responsible for approving the materials and equipment chosen, to ensure that these means of animal identification comply with technical and field performance specifications, and for the supervision of their distribution. The Veterinary Authority is also responsible for ensuring that identifiers are unique and are used in accordance with the requirements of the animal identification system.

      The Veterinary Authority should establish procedures for animal identification and animal traceability including:

      1. the establishment of birth, and time period within which an animal is born;

      2. when animals are introduced into an establishment;

      3. when an animal loses its identification or the identifier becomes unusable;

      4. arrangements and rules for the destruction or reuse of identifiers;

      5. penalties for the tampering or removal of official animal identification devices.

      Where group identification without a physical identifier is adequate, documentation should be created specifying at least the number of animals in the group, the species, the date of identification, the person legally responsible for the animals or establishment. This documentation constitutes a unique group identifier and it should be updated to be traceable if there are any changes.

      Where all animals in the group are physically identified with a group identifier, documentation should also specify the unique group identifier.

    3. Registration

      Procedures need to be incorporated into the design of the programme in order to ensure that relevant events and information are registered in a timely and accurate manner.

      Depending on the scope, performance criteria and desired outcomes, records as described below should specify, at least, the species, the unique animal or group identifier, the date of the event, the identifier of the establishment where the event took place, and the code for the event itself.

      1. Establishments or owners or responsible keepers

        Establishments where animals are kept should be identified and registered, including at least their physical location (such as geographical coordinates or street address), the type of establishment and the species kept. The register should include the name of the person legally responsible for the animals at the establishment.

        The types of establishments that may need to be registered include holdings (farms), assembly centres (e.g. agriculture shows and fairs, sporting events, transit centres, breeding centres), markets, slaughterhouses/abattoirs, rendering plants, dead stock collection points, transhumance areas, centres for necropsy and diagnosis, research centres, zoos, border posts, quarantine stations.

        In cases where the registration of establishments is not applicable e.g. some transhumance systems, the animal owner, the owner’s place of residence and the species kept should be recorded.

      2. Animals

        Animal identification and species should be registered for each establishment or owner. Other relevant information about the animals at each establishment or owner may also be recorded (e.g. date of birth, production category, sex, breed, number of animals of each species, animal identification of the parents).

      3. Other events

        The registration of animal movements is necessary to achieve animal traceability. When an animal is introduced into or leaves an establishment, these events constitute a movement.

        Some countries classify birth, slaughter and death of the animal as movements. When establishments are not registered as part of the animal identification system, ownership and location changes constitute a movement record.

        The information registered should include the date of the movement, the establishment from which the animal or group of animals was dispatched, the number of animals moved, the destination establishment, and any establishment used in transit. The movement record may also include a description of the means of transport and the identification of the vehicle/vessel.

        Procedures should be in place to maintain animal traceability during transport and when animals arrive at and leave an establishment.

        The following events may also be registered:

    4. Documentation

      Documentation requirements should be clearly defined and standardised, in accordance with the scope, performance criteria and desired outcomes and supported by the legal framework.

    5. Reporting

      Depending on the scope, performance criteria and desired outcomes, relevant information (such as animal identification, movement, events, changes in numbers of livestock, establishments) should be reported to the Veterinary Authority by the person responsible for the animals.

    6. Information system

      An information system should be designed in accordance with the scope, performance criteria and desired outcomes. This may be paper based or electronic. The system should provide for the collection, compilation, storage and retrieval of information on matters relevant to registration. The following considerations are important:

      • have the potential for linkage to traceability in the other parts of the food chain;

      • minimise duplication;

      • relevant components, including databases, should be compatible;

      • confidentiality of data;

      • appropriate safeguards to prevent the loss of data, including a system for backing up the data.

      The Veterinary Authority should have access to this information system as appropriate to meet the scope, performance criteria and desired outcomes.

    7. Laboratories

      The results of diagnostic tests should record the animal identifier or the group identifier, the date of sample was taken from the animal and the establishment where the sample was collected.

    8. Slaughterhouses/abattoirs, rendering plants, dead stock collection points, markets and assembly centres

      Slaughterhouses/abattoirs, rendering plants, dead stock collection points, markets and assembly centres should document arrangements for the maintenance of animal identification and animal traceability in compliance with the legal framework.

      These establishments are critical points for control of animal health and food safety.

      Animal identification should be recorded on documents accompanying samples collected for analysis.

      The components of the animal identification system operating within slaughterhouses/abattoirs should complement and be compatible with arrangements for tracking animal products throughout the food chain. At a slaughterhouse/abattoir, animal identification should be maintained during the processing of the animal’s carcass until the carcass is deemed fit for human consumption.

      The animal identification and the establishment from which the animal was dispatched should be registered by the slaughterhouse/abattoir, rendering plant and dead stock collection points.

      Slaughterhouses/abattoirs, rendering plants and dead stock collection points should ensure that identifiers are collected and disposed of in accordance with the procedures established and regulated within the legal framework. These procedures should minimise the risk of unauthorised reuse and, if appropriate, should establish arrangements and rules for the reuse of identifiers.

      Reporting of movement by slaughterhouses/abattoirs, rendering plants and dead stock collection points should occur in accordance with the scope, performance criteria and desired outcomes and the legal framework.

    9. Penalties

      Different levels and types of penalties should be defined in the programme and supported by the legal framework.

  6. Legal framework

    The Veterinary Authority, with other relevant governmental agencies and in consultation with stakeholders, should establish a legal framework for the implementation and enforcement of animal identification system and animal traceability in the country. The structure of this framework will vary from country to country.

    Animal identification, animal traceability and animal movement should be under the responsibility of the Veterinary Authority.

    This legal framework should address:

    1. desired outcomes and scope;

    2. obligations of the Veterinary Authority and other parties;

    3. organisational arrangements, including the choice of technologies and methods used for the animal identification system and animal traceability;

    4. management of animal movement;

    5. confidentiality of data;

    6. data access or accessibility;

    7. checking, verification, inspection and penalties;

    8. where relevant, funding mechanisms;

    9. where relevant, arrangements to support a pilot project.

  7. Implementation

    1. Action plan

      For implementing the animal identification system, an action plan should be prepared specifying the timetable and including the milestones and performance indicators, the human and financial resources, and checking, enforcement and verification arrangements.

      The following activities should be addressed in the action plan:

      1. Communication

        The scope, performance criteria, desired outcomes, responsibilities, movement and registration requirements and sanctions need to be communicated to all parties.

        Communication strategies need to be targeted to the audience, taking into account elements such as the level of literacy (including technology literacy) and spoken languages.

      2. Training programmes

        It is desirable to implement training programmes to assist the Veterinary Services and other parties.

      3. Technical support

        Technical support should be provided to address practical problems.

    2. Checking and verification

      Checking activities should start at the beginning of the implementation to detect, prevent and correct errors and to provide feedback on programme design.

      Verification should begin after a preliminary period as determined by the Veterinary Authority in order to determine compliance with the legal framework and operational requirements.

    3. Auditing

      Auditing should be carried out under the authority of the Veterinary Authority to detect any problems with the animal identification system and animal traceability and to identify possible improvements.

    4. Review

      The programme should be subject to periodic review, taking into account the results of checking, verification and auditing activities.

nb: first adopted in 2002; most recent update adopted in 2011.

2018 ©OIE - Terrestrial Animal Health Code

Contents | Index Chapter 4.1. Chapter 4.3.