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Agriculture Today

New cattle traceability rules take effect Jan. 1

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October 24, 2012 | 4,229 views | Post a comment

AUSTIN -- A requirement for adult cattle in Texas to have an approved form of permanent identification in place at change of ownership will go into effect Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013, according to the Texas Animal Health Commission in an Oct. 4 press release. The commission amended its rules in June of this year to enhance the effective traceability of beef cattle movements in Texas, which is the cornerstone of disease control activities. Implementation of the changes was delayed by the commission to ensure cattle producers understand the requirements and can prepare for the changes. This rule is not a federal rule, but it will put the beef industry in compliance with the anticipated U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Disease Traceability rule for interstate movement expected to be released later this year.

The amended rule permanently cancels the brucellosis test requirement for adult cattle at change of ownership, which was unofficially suspended in the summer of 2011. Although testing of adult cattle is no longer required with the rule change, all sexually intact cattle, parturient or post parturient, or 18 months of age and older changing ownership must still be officially identified with commission-approved permanent identification. This change primarily affects beef cattle, as dairy cattle in Texas have had an even more stringent identification requirement in place since 2008. Nursing calves, steers, spayed heifers, bulls, and heifers less than 18 months of age are exempt (unless a heifer has calved).

Before August of 2011, official identification devices such as eartags were applied automatically at the time a brucellosis test was performed. The inadvertent loss of the identification devices applied to cattle when brucellosis testing stopped has threatened the commission’s ability to effectively trace cattle as part of any ongoing disease investigation.

The Texas Animal Health Commission routinely performs cattle health investigations where the identification and location of exposed/infected animals is critical to success. For example, 30 brucellosis reactors, more than 300 bovine trichomoniasis affected bulls, and 22 bovine tuberculosis cases have been investigated by the state health office to date in 2012. The new traceability rule will help preserve the Texas Animal Health Commission’s ability to identify and trace animal movements quickly and effectively, no matter which disease is involved.

A complete list of acceptable identification devices/methods may be found at, but the most commonly used devices include U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) metal tags, brucellosis calfhood vaccination tags, U.S. origin 840 series Radio Frequency Identification tags (RFID), and breed registration tattoos or firebrands. Producers are encouraged to contact their veterinarian or Texas Animal Health Commission to determine which method of tagging will be best for their operation.

Free USDA metal tags, and a limited number of free applicator pliers (dependent on available funding) will be provided by the Texas Animal Health Commission to producers wishing to use them. The tags and/or pliers may be obtained by contacting local state health commission field staff and USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Veterinary Services representatives. The commission is developing tag distribution partnerships with interested veterinary practitioners and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension offices. A limited supply of eartag pliers is available at no cost. Because of the limited supply, producers are also encouraged to consider purchasing tagging pliers from any ag supply outlets. The free metal tags are not required to be used, but they are one low-cost option.

The commission will recognize an animal already tagged with a silver test tag or orange vaccination tag in its ear, when sold at a livestock market.

Other provisions of the new law include:

•Animals sent directly to slaughter from their premise do not need an identification tag.

•Breeding cattle changing ownership by private treaty (country sales) must have acceptable identification.

•If cattle are too weak to be safely tagged at market, the commission has proposed an amendment allowing the waiver of the rule by a Texas Animal Health Commission inspector in consultation with market ownership or management for weak cattle presented at a sale.

•Record keeping is not required for owners when selling animals, but is strongly encouraged.

•All official identification numbers assigned will be maintained in a Texas Animal Health Commission-managed database. The commission will not track individual change of ownership transactions.

For additional ear tag information, including the nearest distributor of free USDA tags, contact the Texas Animal Health Commission Traceability Team at 1-800-550-8242, ext. 733, or visit

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