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New animal identification rules aid disease traceability

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On March 11, 2013, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) initiated the Animal Disease Traceability Program (ADTP) to track interstate livestock movement. According to the USDA, "Animal disease traceability, or knowing where diseased or at-risk animals are, where they have been and when, is very important to ensuring a rapid response when animal disease events take place. This will reduce the number of animal owners impacted by an animal disease event and reduce the economic strain on owners and affected communities." The new rule replaces the previous unpopular version of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) and pertains to all livestock, including cattle, horses, sheep and goats.

The new rules will minimally change official identification requirements for animals that are shipped interstate, yet it will improve animal disease traceability. The ADTP will require livestock that move interstate to be accompanied by an Interstate Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (ICVI), owner-shipper statement or a brand certificate. The owner-shipper statement and brand certificate must be approved by officials in both the state of origin and the receiving state. Animals moved intrastate will be under the jurisdiction of the state's regulations.

For cattle, the following are deemed officially accepted forms of identification:

  • Metal ear tags (brucellosis "orange" tag or National Uniform Eartagging System (NUES) "Brite" tag).
  • Plastic ear tags (with or without RFID, but must have a unique 15-digit code with 840 as the first three digits, the U.S. shield and manufacturer's logo or trademark).
  • Group or lot identification when applicable.
  • Brands, when recognized by a brand inspection authority, accompanied by an official brand inspection certificate and allowed by the receiving state.
  • Ear tattoos acceptable to breed registries when accompanied by a breed registration certificate or back tags when cattle are moved directly to slaughter.

Federal rules require the following animals to be officially identified:

  • All sexually intact dairy cattle.
  • All rodeo, exhibition or event cattle and horses.
  • Sexually intact beef cattle over the age of 18 months.
  • Equines that move interstate.
  • Existing sheep and goat scrapie regulations apply.

The metal ear tags will be provided at no cost to producers from the USDA as long as funds are available. Exempt cattle are those that are moved directly to a livestock slaughter facility or to an approved livestock tagging facility with an owner-shipper statement; moved from farm of origin to a veterinary medical facility and then returned to the farm of origin, directly from one state through another state and back to the original state; or moved as a commuter herd with a copy of the commuter herd agreement.

Ordinarily there is no requirement for a producer to maintain a copy of the movement document, but it is highly recommended that records be kept. However, if an animal loses an official ear tag, a replacement may be used. If this occurs, then records that include the new identification number, the date it was implemented and the old number, if known, must be maintained for five years.

This situation could apply if mature breeding beef cattle are purchased and shipped between states. As the drought eases and producers restock, they will need to make sure that cattle have compliant identification and maintain those records necessary for USDA compliance.

Robert Wells, Ph.D., PAS joined the Noble Research Institute as a livestock consultant in 2005. He also serves as the Executive Director for the Integrity Beef Alliance, LLC. His areas of emphasis are forage-based beef cattle production and cow/calf nutrition, herd health programs, improving herd genetics, beef quality assurance, and value-added calf marketing programs. Wells grew up on a South Texas diversified farm and attained his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. You can follow him on LinkedIn.