During the Cattle Industry Summer Conference in Denver last week, participants heard of a potential voluntary, incentive-based program for tracing calves and feeder cattle. Jim Collins, director of industry relations with the Southeastern Livestock Network, presented a report from the Cattle Industry Animal Traceability (ATS) Working Group to the NCBA’s Cattle Health and Well Being Committee.

Collins says the working group has focused on developing a framework for a voluntary traceability system to support beef exports and domestic demand.

Proposed voluntary traceability systemUSDA this year launched their Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) system, but it covers limited classes of cattle, focusing mostly on mature breeding cattle. USDA plans to address traceability of calves and feeder cattle in a later rule-making process, after the ADT system is up and running.

The working group has spent the past 18 months developing a concept that would support the ADT system. The proposed voluntary ATS system would work as a public-private partnership with private, non-profit oversight to assure confidentiality of data in the system. It would essentially create linkages with existing private systems that currently provide age-, source- and process-verification services for producers involved in value-added marketing.

Animal-health officials would be able to query the database under approved circumstances to trace cattle, such as in the case of a disease outbreak.

The ATS system would use radio-frequency ID (RFID) to maintain the speed of commerce. Collins says the system would provide financial incentives, allowing producers to receive premiums for cattle that qualify for export or other value-added markets. It also would facilitate voluntary transfer of information from feedyards to cow-calf producers. Collins says their proposal would provide traceability for animal-health purposes while leveraging the strengths of existing technology and protecting the viability of existing process-verification programs.