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SAN MARCOS -- What do the 2011 Texas drought and cattle relocated to other states have to do with a state animal disease traceability program? Plenty, according to Dr. Dee Ellis, state veterinarian with the Texas Animal Health Commission, during the Independent Cattlemen’s Association of Texas (ICA) convention June 20-22, as he explained the identification program that will take effect Jan. 1, 2013.
According to the Texas Animal Health Commission, the animal disease traceability rules state:
•“All sexually intact cattle, parturient or post parturient, or 18 months of age and older, changing ownership within Texas shall be officially identified with approved permanent identification.” Tagging of dairy cattle of all ages has been in effect since April 2008.
•“All official identification numbers are maintained in a state managed database.
•Owner’s contact information is collected, when the owner is assigned a specific series of tag numbers.
•Record keeping is not required, but is encouraged for individual owners.
•If there is a need to trace a particular tag, animal health officials will contact the owner who received the tag series and ask for information on the animal to which the tag was applied.”
Approved permanent identifiers the Commission will accept at this time include the metal bangs tag, RFID (radio-frequency identification) tag, and USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) metal tags. Ownership fire/freeze brands will not be recognized.
According to the Texas Animal Health Commission’s Animal Disease Traceability fact sheet, “... it is in the best interest of the state’s cattle industry to develop and implement a minimal identification requirement in order to maintain a surveillance standard that supports ongoing disease eradication or surveillance efforts. Historically, within the state of Texas, cattle that were tested for brucellosis had permanent official identification applied (such as ear tags) and recorded at the time of testing. This was a significant asset to the agency’s ability to successfully trace cattle as needed for all disease programs, not just brucellosis.” See “Benefits” for supporting reasons for the program.
The Texas Animal Health Commission discontinued the government cattle brucellosis program -- also known as bang’s disease -- as of Aug. 1, 2011.
During the San Marcos meeting, Ellis said since 50 percent of heifers are tagged with just RFID tags, he advises ranchers to revaccinate the heifers for brucellosis, since the heifers would be more valuable than those not vaccinated.
When implemented, the traceability program will allow the animals to move more freely throughout the state, Ellis said. He warned that the Texas Animal Health Commission “may close the state to protect you [the cattlemen]” if an outbreak of a disease should occur.
Ellis is concerned about the large number of cattle that were relocated to states such as Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming -- states with higher incidences of positive brucellosis -- during the most recent Texas drought. These cattle may soon return to Texas.
Speaking of the recent BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) case in California, Ellis called the animal disease traceability plan an “insurance against wrongful trace.”
The infected cow and her offspring were both properly tagged, Ellis said, thus helping in tracing the disease.
The Texas Animal Health Commission personnel have made metal brite tags available at no charge to producers. The tags are approximately 1/2-inch in width, versus the smaller brucellosis brite tags, which makes them easier to read.
While Ellis supports the mandatory state program, one group already has passed a resolution opposing one part of the program -- tagging animals being sent directly to slaughter.