Beginning next month, beef producers shipping certain classes of cattle across state lines will need to comply with a new set of federal rules for animal disease traceability. For now though, the identification and documentation requirements will affect a relatively small number of cattle, and compliance should be fairly easy for most producers.

ID-day approachesAfter a short delay, USDA published its final rule titled  “Traceability for Livestock Moving Interstate” to the Federal Register on Jan. 9. The requirements take effect 60 days following publication, meaning beef producers need to comply by March 11, 2013.

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.

Unlike some earlier proposals, the ADT rule affects a relatively small percentage of cattle marketed, since animals less than 18 months of age are exempt along with cattle shipped directly to slaughter. That eliminates calves, yearling seedstock, most feeder cattle and culled breeding cattle sold for slaughter. And the program only applies to animals shipped across state lines. Adult cows and bulls sold to other producers will make up the bulk of cattle affected by the program, along with animals transported to stock shows and rodeos.

ID-day approaches

USDA has emphasized the sole purpose of its traceability framework is to prevent the spread of disease by quickly tracking sick animals to their source, facilitating quarantines or other interventions while minimizing the scope of quarantines or culling.

At the NCBA, chief veterinarian Kathy Simmons, DVM, says the system should reduce the number of animals involved in a disease investigation and reduce the time needed to respond to a disease occurrence. “As a result of the final rule for animal disease traceability, information will be more readily available, USDA disease investigation timeframes will shorten, more rapid control for certain diseases will occur and the number of quarantined or disposed animals will be reduced. Ultimately, these improvements in traceability under the final rule should decrease the cost of disease outbreaks to producers.”

The requirements

Since the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service issued its proposed rule in August 2011, it 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’s traceability requirements focus primarily on breeding cattle. Most beef cattle under 18 months of age 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 rule also clarifies that all livestock moved interstate to a custom slaughter facility are exempt from the regulations.

While most young feeder cattle are exempt from the rule, dairy calves appear to be an exception. The rule, as published in the Federal Register, states that “beginning on March 11, 2013, all dairy females, regardless of age, and all male dairy animals that are born after that date will be required to be officially identified prior to interstate movement.” As with other provisions in the rule, individual states will set their standards for identifying and documenting dairy cattle. This provision will affect beef producers as large numbers of dairy steer calves routinely ship from dairy regions to growing and feeding operations in other states.

Also, the 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.

ID-day approaches

As for documents and ID devices, NCBA’s Simmons says, unless specifically exempted, livestock moved interstate will need to be officially identified and accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection or other documentation agreed upon by the shipping and receiving states or tribes. Producers will need to consult with a USDA-accredited veterinarian to obtain an ICVI or alternative documentation such as brand certificates, where appropriate.

Flexible options for official identification include official eartags, registered brands with a brand registration certificate and tattoos with a breed registration certificate, Simmons says. Backtags may be used for cattle going to slaughter within three days of movement. The final rule also establishes official identification numbers for permanent and unique animal identification. Official eartags, as defined in the rule, will bear an official shield with the U.S., state or tribal postal codes within the shield. The phase-out period for manufacturer-coded animal identification numbers to 840 (U.S.) AINs is 24 months or by March 11, 2015. Additionally, Simmons says, buyers and sellers will need to maintain ID numbers and other records for cattle moved interstate for five years.

How to comply

So what exactly will producers need to do to comply?

A key feature of the ADT rule is that it provides a framework and directs states and tribes to develop and administer their own systems.

Neil Hammerschmidt serves as ADT program manager at APHIS. He says USDA, through the new approach to ADT, is not prescribing the methods or systems that states and tribes must use in order to trace animals. This outcome-based approach to improving traceability allows states and tribes to develop systems for tracing animals that work best for them and for producers and others in their jurisdictions.

This provides fl exibility but also creates potential for confusion. Jody Donohue, director of marketing and communications at the Livestock Marketing Association, says her organization is working nationally with state veterinarians and other officials to build consistency into their rules and reach agreements on issues such as brands.

At USDA, Hammerschmidt says all states have initiated activities to support ADT, and a few states are revising their regulations to align with the federal rule. As of mid-January, Donohue said some states were further along than others in developing their ADT systems.

But due to the variation, auction markets will play a vital role in documenting cattle for interstate movement. Seedstock producers who sell mature breeding cattle directly to out-of-state customers generally are familiar with the process, routinely administer ICVIs and will adjust to the system. The typical cow-calf producer who occasionally sells mature cows or bulls to other producers, however, probably takes those cattle to an auction market.

Donohue stresses that while producers need to be aware and engaged in meeting their own state requirements, they cannot be expected to know the requirements in other states or anticipate what may be needed before they take qualified cattle to the market. So she encourages producers to work with their local salebarn operators and veterinarians if they plan to sell mature cattle that could be purchased for interstate shipment.

LMA has been working closely with its member market operators, helping them prepare for implementation of ADT. Those markets, Donohue says, will be well prepared to take responsibility and make it easy for buyers and sellers to comply as needed. The sale barn will serve as the primary tagging site in most cases, and the operators will know what is required when out-of-state buyers purchase cattle. “Producers don’t need to be the experts because they can’t predict where cattle may go after the sale,” she says.

What’s next?

The USDA’s APHIS has indicated all along that it will consider adding traceability requirements for additional classes of cattle once the program is established, tested and fi ne-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.”

Once the current program is in place, Hammerschmidt says, USDA, states and tribes will review and analyze data compiled from animal-movement records and use that information to establish traceability performance standards at a later date. Comparing the results obtained earlier on and over time will help document the progress being made.

At LMA, Donohue says the organization has been engaged in the traceability issue for over 10 years. Among its efforts, LMA brought together 14 organizations in the livestock industry to form the Cattle ID Group, which played a key role in advising USDA in the development of the ADT rule. That group, with representation from stakeholders across the industry, was able to reach compromises that resulted in a rule that minimizes expense and logistical burdens for producers and markets, including the current exemption for feeder cattle.

But LMA and other organizations recognize the current ADT rule is not the final word on traceability. Donohue says the CIDG will monitor progress, identify problems and work with USDA to solve them. It will also work to address anticipated expansion of the program to include feeder cattle and engage with USDA officials in the development of any future traceability requirements.