American livestock producers may soon be able to identify and track every animal they send to market. A veterinary telemedicine R&D project in its second stage at Kansas State University is trying to create an infrastructure to monitor cattle health remotely. If successful the system would give livestock producers and veterinarians a heads up to emerging diseases including mad cow and foot-and-mouth.

"The traceability of meat is the real issue here," says K-State researcher Dan Andresen. "Someday, we'll have to know exactly what herd, and what animal, any slice of meat has come from."

Researchers want to put sensors on a cow to see if they can be used to not only identify the animal and track its location, but also to gather and store health data including heart rate, respiration rate, and temperature. K-State scientists have already proven they can get useful health data from a cow and into a data-recording device. Now they are addressing the technical side of setting up a telemedicine system that can alert livestock producers and veterinarians to potential animal-health problems.

Ultimately, the new system will gather an animal's health data and store it locally so it can be pulled onto a PDA. Data will then be uploaded to a PC and analyzed for herd records, weather data, or global-information-systems data. Local vets can access the information online.