The Federal Government’s animal disease traceability law went into effect in March of 2013. Since the passage of the federal law, states have been determining how to best implement it and educate stakeholders about what it requires.
“The primary goal is animal disease traceability. If we find a disease we want to be able to trace it back to the farm of origin,” said Tony Forshey, Ohio’s State Veterinarian. “We have done about a year of education outreach and education with sale barns and auction barns and commodity groups. Any time any animal crosses a state line, it is involved in interstate commerce and therefore it applies to the animal disease traceability law. If you’re going to sell animals across the state line, they have to have an official ID. The other side of that is the documentation, either with a certificate of vet inspection and an official ID. There are many forms of official IDs and they can be found on the USDA or ODA web sites.”
All livestock, excluding poultry, are included in the requirements.
“Some of the biggest changes involve cattle. All dairy cattle of any age or sex must have official ID to cross state lines. Beef cattle currently only need official ID if they are over 18 moths of age. The exception to that is if they are involved in a fair or exhibition and then they all are required to have an official ID,” Forshey said. “In pigs for county fairs we have always used four digit tattoos. Now cull sows have to have pin number or premise ID number to be sold to slaughter. Horses need IDs with registration papers. Sheep and goats need Scrapie tags and that has been in place for quite some time. The biggest change is for the cattle.”
There was significant debate about the requirements for cattle in particular, but ultimately the law is something many in the beef industry can manage.
“We’re supportive of this. We have worked very closely with the states and the USDA for quite some time so we can have a system that actually works, moves at the speed of commerce and, more importantly, can be used in the event of an animal disease emergency,” said Colin Woodall, vice president of government affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “This is the first part of the effort. For now we just have to worry about the breeding cattle. We have to worry about all the market cattle in a secondary rule from USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in the next year or year and a half. I think we are going to learn from this first version to make sure the second version works too. You need to understand what the requirements are. There are some state-to-state differences so you need to work with your state department of agriculture to move cattle across state lines. This is important because we need to identify diseases, track them down and isolate them as quickly as possible. This is one tool to help do that. If we can do that it will help us protect our markets, our ability to ship overseas and show the consumer that this is not something that they need to worry about.”
Forshey said that some of the biggest challenges with the implementation of the law are not on farms.
“The livestock markets are really getting the brunt of this issue. If animals come in and they are not tagged, they have to be tagged before they leave the facility. It has created a lot of work for them,” Forshey said. “Some livestock markets are having to charge a fee for putting those tags in. It is just a cleaner operation if you just tag animals before they leave the farm.”
For many situations, Forshey recommends the 840 tags, especially for livestock exhibitors.
“Those tags simply mean that the animal was born in the United States. It makes it easier for buyers to be confident that they can buy the animal and then get it slaughtered wherever they want across the United States,” he said. “The Ohio Cattlemen’s Association made a big step two years ago by requiring RFID electronic tags, the electronic 840 tags, for the BEST shows and that was a great move. Now other states are following Ohio’s lead. For the county fairs, they don’t need to use the electronic tags but they can use the 840 visual tag and they can buy those as cheap as they can buy their regular fair tags. It is just a good way to ensure those animals can cross over the country without having to worry about official ID. Again, If everybody would just tag their animals with official ID before they left the farm we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.”