Reducing the number of animal owners impacted by an animal disease event reduces the economic strain on owners and affected communities.”

Scherer robyn
Freelance Writer
Robyn Scherer-Carlson is a freelance writer based in Colorado.

In January of this year, the USDA issued new animal traceability laws. The new federal rule, called Animal-Disease Traceability (ADT), became effective March 11 and called for national official identification and documentation requirements to trace several different classes of livestock.

The rule covers cattle, bison, horse and other equine species, swine, sheep, goats and poultry.

“With the final rule announced [Jan. 9], the U.S. now has a flexible, effective animal-disease traceability system for livestock moving interstate without undue burdens for ranchers and U.S. livestock businesses,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

“The final rule meets the diverse needs of the countryside where states and tribes can develop systems for tracking animals that work best for them and their producers while addressing any gaps in our overall disease response efforts.”


According to the USDA, the purpose of the ruling is not a food-safety initiative, but to control animal disease.

“Increasing the levels of official identification will help state and federal animal health officials more quickly identify animals that do not need to be held and tested during an animal-disease investigation.

This information will reduce the number of locations and animals tested, thereby decreasing the length of the investigation and the cost to producers and the government,” the factsheet states.

Under this rule, any livestock that are moved interstate would need to be identified and have an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection (ICVI) or other documentation such as owner-shipper statements or brand certificates.

The main classes of livestock that were affected by this rule include:

  • Sexually intact beef cattle 18 months of age or older
  • Dairy cattle of any age
  • Beef cattle under 18 months of age moved interstate for shows, exhibitions, rodeos or recreational events

Cattle moved directly to slaughter are not required to have a tag or health papers, but these animals must be delivered to the processing facility within a few days to meet this criterion. Culled cows fed in a feedyard for a number of days must meet the requirements.

Cattle that are exempt, those which are under 18 months old or feeder cattle, will have a separate identification rulemaking in the future.

Although the ruling does not currently affect the majority of fed beef cattle in the U.S., it does affect fed dairy cattle, which many feedlots have in addition to beef cattle.

Magnum Feedyard, LLC, in Wiggins, Colorado, is one feedyard that will see a difference with this ruling.

“From my vantage point, it’s a bigger burden,” says owner and manager Steve Gabel. “I understand being a cowherd owner, and the need to protect the breeding population, but if you are strictly a cattle feeder, it’s a bigger burden.”

He adds, “With any of these interstate shipments, we will have to be a lot more diligent.”

The biggest area of his feedyard that is affected is the dairy cattle part, since all dairy cattle must be tagged in order to comply with the rule.

Gabel’s concern stems from the abandonment of the previous animal ID system and changing market requirements. “When Japan allowed their imports to go to 30 months old from 21 months old, we lost a lot of economic incentive for age-verified and source-verified cattle.

The market premiums have dissipated. I think the industry has taken a step back in that regard,” he says.

There are two types of tags that can be used to meet the requirement set forth by the ruling. This includes a USDA-approved metal tag or an 840-compliant tag (RFID or visual).

Metal tags are provided by the state, and then producers must affix them. The 840 tags must be ordered from a USDA-approved manufacturer, and the producer is responsible for both the cost of the tags and the labor to affix them.

The official identification number would have to adhere to one of the following systems, most of which are already in use:

  • National Uniform Eartagging System (NUES)
  • Animal Identification Number (AIN)
  • Location-based number system (such as sheep and goat scrapie tags)
  • Any other numbering system approved by the administrator for the official identification of animals

There are several states who also have additional requirements, and producers should be mindful of those requirements in addition to the federal rules.

Montana, Wyoming and Colorado have mandatory brand inspections, and brands can qualify as official identification in those states. Other forms of official identification include back tags and tattoos.

Traceability information that fully supports disease control, eradication and surveillance needs to be maintained for at least two years for poultry and swine, and five years for all other livestock species, according to the USDA.

Any entity involved in the movement of animals across state lines, such as accredited veterinarians, states of origin and destination and livestock facilities, all fall under the requirements for records.

The administration of the animal identification program will be on state and tribal health officials, not the USDA.

The movement of animal intrastate, within a state, does not need to comply with federal rules, just the state rules where the animal resides.

Colorado state veterinarian Dr. Keith Roehr said in a statement that the national program has encouraging benefits for producers.

An efficient and accurate animal disease traceability system helps reduce the number of animals involved in an investigation, reduces the time needed to respond, and decreases the cost to producers and the government.

In states like Colorado, the federal rules will require the state’s veterinarian office to meet animal disease traceability performance standards. Those states say the measures will protect them from pitfalls of a disease outbreak.

Visit this site for more specific details about the regulation.  end mark

Robyn Scherer is a freelance writer based in Colorado.