February 15, 2013


 Travel rules added for farm animals

Rules apply to most livestock, horses starting March 11

By Greg Cima
Posted Jan. 30, 2013

It is the cattle industry that will be most affected by regulations that, starting in March, will require identification for most livestock that cross state, tribal, or international borders.

Livestock owners soon will need to provide identification and travel documents for most farm animals sent across state borders. 

With some exceptions, animals raised for food and fiber as well as horses and other equids will need approved types of individual or group identification for such travel starting March 11, the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced in a Jan. 9 Federal Register notice. The animals also will need interstate certificates of veterinary inspection or, when shipping and receiving states agree, alternate movement documents.

The identification needed varies by species. Livestock owners can, for example, use ear tags to identify large and small ruminants, group identification documents for pigs, group identification or leg bands for poultry, descriptions and images of horses, and—if shipping and receiving states agree—hot-iron brands on cattle. The USDA also is giving animal health officials and cattle owners two years to use up current stocks of ear tags that do not have the official ear tag shield.
The regulations will not affect some animals, such as livestock shipped for custom slaughter, chicks moved from a hatchery, and beef cattle that are younger than 18 months old and not traveling for events such as exhibitions or rodeos. State governments will need to know which grazing livestock herds routinely cross state lines, but those herds do not need health certificates or movement documents for daily travel.
The farm animal rules are intended to help APHIS react more quickly to disease emergencies and at reduced cost. They are the final version of an August 2011 proposal in which APHIS officials indicated they wanted to create minimum identification and documentation requirements for moving livestock.
“Traceability does not prevent disease, but knowing where diseased and at-risk animals are, where they have been, and when, is indispensable in emergency response and in ongoing disease control and eradication programs,” the agency said in the Federal Register notice.
In a press statement, Dr. Ron DeHaven, AVMA CEO and a former APHIS administrator, praised APHIS’ work to establish identification and documentation requirements for animals moving interstate. He hopes the program becomes the foundation for an even more comprehensive, mandatory, and uniform system that would be consistent across states.

Veterinarians’ records affected

Veterinarians and others who issue or receive certificates of veterinary inspection for animals crossing state borders will need to keep copies of the certificates or related records for two years when those certificates are used for poultry or swine, and five years when they involve cattle, bison, equids, cervids, sheep, or goats. Anyone who distributes official identification devices, such as ear tags, will need to maintain records related to those devices for five years. Livestock facilities must keep records of movements of poultry and swine for at least two years and others for five years. 

The different times for record keeping are connected with the shorter lives of most pigs and poultry. 

The USDA accepted comments through Jan. 30, 2013, on the document “Data Standards for Interstate Certificates of Veterinary Inspection.” APHIS will publish a final version of the document on its website at www.aphis.usda.gov.

Disease-specific livestock identification requirements already have helped the USDA trace animals’ movements, the Federal Register notice states.  For example, APHIS officials during 2010 identified the origins of 96 percent of scrapie-positive sheep, “typically in a matter of minutes,” because 92 percent of cull breeding sheep have official identification at slaughter through the National Scrapie Eradication Program. 

“Other diseases, particularly contagious ones, require that we trace to more than the birth premises,” the notice states. 

The new rules could help the USDA control domestic diseases such as bovine tuberculosis and new or foreign animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease. Shortcomings in animal traceability have hurt efforts to eradicate tuberculosis in the U.S., a goal since 1917, the notice states.

NAIS legacy

The state-based animal identification and tracking system is a replacement for the National Animal Identification System, a voluntary federal system APHIS began implementing nearly a decade ago. After receiving mostly critical comments in a 15-city “listening tour” about the NAIS, the agency announced in February 2010 that it planned to abandon the system. 

“USDA spent more than $120 million, but only 36 percent of producers participated,” an APHIS fact sheet stated. “It is no secret that there are concerns about and opposition to NAIS.” 

Instead, APHIS would make state and tribal governments track interstate livestock travel. The USDA announced that it planned to let local governments lead and administer a new animal disease traceability program, and the USDA would provide support and cooperation to help them meet standards.

Bovine industries most affected

USDA officials said in 2011 that the livestock identification regulations were most needed for the cattle industry, and the 2012 notice states that the new rules will have the most impact on owners of cattle and bison. Industry’s total additional identification and documentation costs associated with implementing the regulations for all U.S. cattle are estimated to be between $11 million and $34 million. 

The American Association of Bovine Practitioners generally supports implementing individual identification for animals, which provides a safety net for the national cattle industry, said Dr. M. Gatz Riddell, AABP executive vice president. 

“In the event of a foreign animal disease, failure to have good animal identification will become immediately problematic,” Dr. Riddell said. 

Dr. Riddell cited foot-and-mouth disease as an example of a disease that could cause devastation in the absence of an animal identification system. 

APHIS officials noted that the U.S. exported about $2.8 billion worth of beef and $132 million worth of live cattle during 2010, and the total value of U.S. cattle and calf production during 2009 was $32 billion. 

“If there were an animal disease outbreak in the United States that affected our domestic and international beef markets, preservation of only a very small proportion of these markets would justify estimated private sector costs attributable to the animal disease traceability program,” the notice states. 

The regulations will have little effect on the swine industry and veterinarians who work in that industry, said Dr. Tom Burkgren, executive director of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians. Existing identification and tracking systems, which had been required for the federal pseudorabies eradication program, meet the new regulations, he said. 

Future regulations could require that state and tribal governments meet performance standards for tracking interstate livestock movements. APHIS also is giving states and tribes information systems connected with the tracking requirements. Local governments will cover costs of locally developed systems, but federal money can be used for administration of local traceability activities. 

Additional information on the new regulations is available on the APHIS website.