Why does Texas need an animal ID program?
Texas cattlemen may comment on two different animal disease traceability programs. The proposed federal and state programs will require the tagging and documentation of sexually intact cattle more than 18 months of age, all dairy cattle, and cattle and bison used for rodeos, recreational events, shows, or exhibitions. Two agriculture groups have raised questions thus far, with one group set to meet with state officials about changes in the proposed rules. See related article, right.
Tagging of dairy cattle has been in effect since April 2008, but if the proposed Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) animal identification program goes into effect, stockyards and auction barns will have to tag other animals, as well.
According to the Texas Animal Health Commission website, one of several reasons for this identification program is the discontinuance of the government brucellosis program as of Aug. 1. Prior to this, the markets received $2 per test. The state acquired brucellosis-free status in early 2008, and health officials encourage ranchers to test eligible cattle.
In a July 2008 Texas Animal Health Commission meeting, a concern was highlighted that “older beef cattle may have brucellosis ear tags, but only the small percentage of beef heifers are vaccinated and identified. This lack of identification greatly concerns TAHC, and either NAIS [National Animal Identification System] or an alternative system must be developed and implemented before the cattle identification component of the brucellosis program is dismantled, to ensure the capability of tracing diseased and exposed cattle.”
At this time, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service also is receiving comments for its federal identification and documentation for the interstate movement of certain livestock.
A third reason cited by the animal health commission to support its proposal is the release of a 130-page report regarding cattle tuberculosis in the United States.
The report, Assessment of Pathways for the Introduction and Spread of Mycobacterium bovis in the United States, “indicates that a lack of a national animal identification program leaves the United States vulnerable to containing disease outbreaks and puts the United States at risk of shutting down commerce if there is a significant disease outbreak.”
“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 from the Aug. 12 Federal Register.
Dr. Matt Cochran, assistant executive director of administration for the Texas Animal Health Commission, stated in the proposed rules that he found “no significant fiscal implications for local government as a result of enforcing or administering the rule” during the first five-year period. New tags will be made available from the USDA at no extra charge to the producer.
“There will be some cost associated with the labor required for actually tagging, as well as recording the documentation that correlates the applied backtag with the eartag of a tag-eligible animal,” Cochran said.
The deadline for submission of comments is Wednesday, Dec. 7, by 5 p.m.
Comments on the Texas Animal Health Commission’s proposed regulations must be submitted by 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 7. Send comments in writing to Carol Pivonka, Texas Animal Health Commission, 2105 Kramer Lane, Austin, TX 78758; by fax to 512-719-0721; or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A detailed description of the proposed rules can be found at http://www.tahc.state.tx.us under Rule Proposals.