Animal disease traceability: knowing an animal’s path

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On August 9, 2011, USDA issued a proposed rule to establish minimum national official identification and documentation requirements for the traceability of livestock moving interstate. Having a traceability system in place would allow the United States to trace animal disease more quickly and efficiently, thereby minimizing not only the spread of disease but also the trade impacts an outbreak may have. Basically, cattle moving from one state to another state will need to be 1) officially identified and 2) accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection (ICVI) or certain other documentation. An exception is made for those cattle moving directly to a custom slaughter facility for preparation of meat for personal consumption.

The requirement for official identification will be phased in, beginning on the effective date of the final rule. The initial phase, as outlined in the table below, will begin when the rule is first published and last until a notice is published in the Federal Register defining an effective date to begin requiring official identification for all cattle (final phase). During this initial phase, all beef cattle under 18 months of age as well as steers and spayed heifers will be exempt from the official identification requirement unless they are moved interstate for shows, exhibitions, rodeos or recreational events.

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*In this proposed rule, a commuter herd is defined as “a herd of cattle or bison moved interstate during the course of normal livestock management operations and without change of ownership directly between two premises, as provided in a commuter herd agreement”. A commuter herd agreement is defined as “a written agreement between the owner(s) of a herd of cattle or bison and the animal health officials for the States and/or Tribes of origin and destination specifying the conditions required for the interstate movement from one premises to another in the course of normal livestock management operations and specifying the time period, up to 1 year, that the agreement is effective”. A commuter herd agreement would be subject to annual renewal. Meeting commuter-herd requirements in lieu of official identification requirements would still provide traceability.

Cattle and bison that are required to be officially identified for interstate movement must be identified by:
• An official eartag; or
• Group/lot identification when a group/lot identification number (GIN) is applicable.

States or Tribes may accept another form of identification, including but not limited to brands, tattoos, and breed registry certificates, as agreed on by animal health officials in the States or Tribes involved in the movement.

USDA Official Eartags:

Official Vaccination Eartag (Brucellosis)-Restricted for use with bovine and bison calfhood brucellosis vaccination

National Uniform Eartagging System (NUES) Tags
‐ Commonly referred to as “Silver” or “Brite” tags.
‐ These have historically been used for disease testing and interstate movement.
‐ VS Memorandum 578.12 revised March 15, 2011 allows distribution to producers through State and Tribal authorities.

Animal identification number (AIN) “840” Tags
‐ Provided directly to producers from manufacturers (or their distributors), or to producers through accredited veterinarian or an animal health official.
-Various sizes, shapes, colors are available; some are visual only or with variable frequency RFID technology. The visual imprinting of the AIN on the tag is the official identifier for AIN tags with radio frequency technology. AIN tags may be imprinted with additional information for program identity, e.g., age, source programs.

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Group/lot identification:
The group/lot identification number (GIN) provides a means of identifying groups of animals when individual animal identification is not required. In this proposed rule, the GIN is the identification number used to uniquely identify a “unit of animals’’ of the same species that is managed together as one group throughout the preharvest production chain. The proposed definition also specifies that when a GIN is used, it must be recorded on documents accompanying the animals; it would not, however, be necessary to have the GIN attached to each animal. This last provision is a new one and is in keeping with the purpose of allowing animals of certain species to be identified by group or lot rather than individually.

Why is traceability important? The specific characteristics of a disease lead to differences in the way they are investigated. Knowing the history of the location of the animal is critical when dealing with a highly contagious disease, in particular its prior contacts with other animals. The type of information gathered and how complete the information is affects how the disease investigation is conducted. Complete information can help animal health officials narrow down the number of herds tested. However, when information is limited or vague, the testing of herds is expanded to ensure all possible herds are included. If the herd owner cannot be located for an animal of concern, the herds of all potential suppliers of the subject animal must be tested. Numbers of animals needing to be tested can rapidly multiply as all potential sources are considered. Time is also a critical factor in a disease investigation. The more time it takes, the more herds and animals become infected or exposed, the more man-hours are needed to respond, and the more the industry suffers from the loss or delay of sale and potential market share.

Source: Dr. Michelle Arnold, Large Ruminant Extension Veterinarian, University of Kentucky


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