You may have heard or seen the acronym NAHMS at a meeting or in an article and not really known that it stands for the National Animal Health Monitoring System, a part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). NAHMS is the only USDA organization that routinely collects, evaluates and publishes information on animal health and related practices on U.S. livestock, poultry and aquaculture operations. Much of the information NAHMS publishes is used by extension personnel to educate producers and by animal scientists and veterinarians as a reference for conducting their own research. NAHMS data are also used by the USDA to strengthen government animal-health programs and to predict how diseases newly introduced to the United States might spread.

 What is NAHMS?
A non-regulatory program of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, NAHMS is designed to identify and meet the nation’s animal-health information needs, primarily by conducting and publishing nation-wide studies on all major U.S. livestock industries (beef, dairy, equine, sheep and swine) and on the poultry and aquaculture industries. The statistically based results produced by NAHMS have proven to be of considerable value. For instance, the NAHMS Dairy ’96 study had a strong focus on Johne’s disease, and results from the study sparked an industrywide campaign to more thoroughly evaluate the prevalence of the disease as well as focus research on reducing its transmission. The study not only raised awareness of Johne’s at the industry level but also sparked interest from state and federal governments, which invested over $100 million on Johne’s disease research, education and animal testing.

When planning and conducting NAHMS studies, we try to balance information needs with available resources. Since NAHMS is a government organization, we are currently faced with shrinking budgets and growing workloads, which limit our ability to collect and report on all the important issues facing a particular industry. Since producers voluntarily participate in NAHMS studies, whenever possible we provide incentives to participate By Jason Lombard, DVM, USDA/ APHIS Veterinary Services, National Animal Health Monitoring System in our studies. These usually take the form of testing the producers’ animals for specific diseases or evaluating management practices, at no cost to the producers. For example, during the NAHMS Dairy 2007 study, we tested the calves of participating producers for failure of passive transfer, tested milk and feces for common food-safety pathogens and assessed the prevalence of Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis — the causative agent of Johne’s Disease. In addition, a cow comfort assessment was conducted, and the results were reported back to producers on facility design, cow behavior and stall use. Disease testing and operational evaluations have proven to be of value to producers participating in NAHMS studies.

Voluntary and confidential
Because NAHMS studies rely on voluntary participation, the privacy of every participant is protected. Only those collecting the data know the identity of the respondent. Reports generated from the studies represent the data only in an aggregate manner.

For more information about NAHMS and a comprehensive collection of NAHMS studies reports, visit nahms.aphis.usda.gov.