After a short delay, USDA published its final rule titled “Traceability for Livestock Moving Interstate” to the Federal Register on Wednesday. The requirements take effect 60 days following publication, meaning beef producers need to comply by March 11, 2013.

The agency announced the final rule on December 20, 2012, with a planned date of December 28 for publication in the Federal Register. That would have meant the rule would take effect on February 26, 2013. But in late December, the agency announced it would delay publishing the rule, and a statement on the USDA/APHIS traceability website said it would do so in early January.

The scaled-down ADT rule has received generally favorable acceptance from livestock organizations after years of contentious debate over animal identification, premises identification and earlier proposals within the National Animal Identification System (NAIS).

The rule’s traceability requirements focus primarily on breeding cattle. Most beef cattle under 18 months of age, for example, are exempt, meaning calves and feeder cattle, which make up the bulk of cattle entering commerce, will not need official identification, at least for now. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has indicated all along that it will consider adding traceability requirements for additional classes of cattle once the program is established, tested and fine-tuned on smaller numbers.

In its December news release announcing the ADT rule, the agency says specific traceability requirements for calves and feeder cattle “will be addressed in separate rulemaking, allowing APHIS to work closely with industry to ensure the effective implementation of the identification requirements.” Among younger cattle, the new rule will require official identification for cattle less than 18 months of age being transported across state lines to shows, exhibitions, rodeos or recreational events.

Since APHIS issued its proposed rule in August 2011 they received thousands of comments from industry stakeholders, and incorporated several modifications to the final rule based on those comments. A key change is the agency will accept the use of brands, tattoos and brand registration as official identification when accepted by the shipping and receiving states or tribes.

The rule also clarifies that all livestock moved interstate to a custom slaughter facility are exempt from the regulations

Read more about the rule from Drovers/CattleNetwork.