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Agriculture Today

Government promotes new traceability plan

Government promotes new traceability plan

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Wilson County News
August 31, 2011
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The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Veterinary Services released its much-anticipated animal traceability plan Aug. 9 during a national media conference. In a matter of hours, at least one national organization voiced its opposition.

Cattlemen and other entities involved in this sector of agriculture are reviewing this plan and some question if this is a better solution for disease traceability or if it will create more hardships, due to required tagging and recordkeeping.

The National Animal Identification System, as introduced in 2004, was a voluntary program for animal traceability in case of a disease outbreak, with a long-term goal of 48-hour traceback. Following widespread opposition across the nation -- due to premises information data maintained in a federal database and the cost of implementation involved -- this plan was “discontinued” in 2009.

The new proposed plan, Animal Disease Traceability Framework, was released by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and USDA Chief Veterinarian John Clifford during a national media conference call. The 114 pages of proposed rules were posted in the Aug. 12 Federal Register, giving the ag industry an opportunity to review and comment.

The proposed rules pertain to swine, poultry, cervids, and cattle. Since a majority of the plan was written about cattle, cattle will be addressed in this article.

The plan includes two main elements: Animals transported out of state must be officially tagged and must be accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection. See “ID snapshot” for more on this.

According to the Federal Register posting, animals subjected to the proposed rules include “sexually intact cattle and bison 18 months of age or over, dairy cattle, and cattle and bison used for rodeos, recreational events, show, or exhibitions.”

Since April 1, 2008, the Texas Animal Health Commission mandates all dairy -- regardless of age or sex -- must be identified with Brite tags or other official identification. Dairy cattle are routinely moved numerous times through their lifetimes, and the housing of these animals in close confinement poses a greater risk. This action was a response to cattle tuberculosis.

While younger cattle are exempt at this time, they will soon be added to the list. When the USDA reaches a goal of 70-percent compliance, all cattle will be subject to tagging -- regardless of age.



Negative feedback has already been voiced regarding branding and the economic impact the proposed rules will have on auction barns.

First, the issue of not including hot-iron brands as a form of an official identification had R-CALF (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action League Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) voicing opposition Aug. 9.

At present, only 14 states use branding as an official identification. If an animal is moved between two states that recognize branding as official, branding will be allowed for interstate movement.

An August 2011 Factsheet, “USDA supports the use of brands to identify animals moving interstate,” says since not all states designate brands as an official identification method, “designating brands as an official identification for cattle would force non-brand states to establish brand inspection.”

Another area receiving negative feedback thus far is that livestock facilities -- stockyards and auction barns -- must maintain records of the official identification devices and Interstate Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (ICVI) for five years. Facilities that distribute official tags are subject to the same requirement, and are required to have their own location identification number.

While these entities must maintain records, the Aug. 2011 “Animal Disease Traceability: A Guide to Identifying Cattle and Bison for Interstate Movement” states, “While the person or entity shipping cattle and bison interstate is required to ensure that a copy of the ICVI ... accompanies the shipment ... there is no requirement that the person or entity maintain a record of the shipment.”

The use of a USDA backtag will not be official identification, because it is not a “permanent form of identification” and is used only for animals going to slaughter.

Costs, export


According to the Federal Register, approximately 20 percent of cattle are not eartagged. Annual costs of official identification are estimated from $12.5 million to $30.5 million annually. If the rancher is currently using tags, the cost is estimated at $3.5 million.

Add to this equation the cost of ICVIs, and the costs increase by an additional $2 million to $3.8 million. Combined total estimated costs are listed upwards of $34.3 million.

An economic analysis report states if the program begins in 2012, the “USDA expects the appropriation to total $127.7 million” for four fiscal years.

Another reason cited by Vilsack during the Aug. 9 media conference for implementation of the identification program is the “trade impacts” a disease outbreak may have.

“The value of U.S. exports of live cattle in 2010 was $131.8 million, and the value of U.S. beef exports totaled $2.8 billion,” according to data found in the Federal Register.

While much of the proposed ruling pertains to the movement of live animals, a section includes the removal of “official identification devices affixed to covered livestock carcasses moved interstate for rendering.”

The rules state that the device must be removed at the facility and “made available to APHIS [Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service].”

The government is seeking comment “on costs and benefits of this proposed requirement.”

To submit comments, visit The deadline to submit is Wednesday, Nov. 9.

ID snapshot
Animals affected by
the proposed new rules include:
•Only animals transported out of state.
•Sexually intact cattle and bison 18 months of age or over, dairy cattle, and cattle and bison used for rodeos, recreational events, show, or exhibitions.
Acceptable identification includes:
•National Uniform Eartagging System, tags such as Brite tags; brucellosis vaccination eartags; Animal Identification Number “840” tags; and premises identification number tags.
•Tattoos, breed registry certificates, and registered brands, if the animal health officials in shipping and receiving recognize these forms of identification.
•An interstate certificate of veterinary inspection (ICVI), issued by an accredited veterinarian, must accompany animals.
ICVI exceptions:
•Animals going directly to slaughter.
•Animals shipped by a rancher to his or her own ranch in another state.
For a complete listing, visit

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