Veterinarians see varied impacts of animal disease traceability rule statewideWritten by Saige Albert
Nearly one year after USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service debuted their Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) Rule, Wyoming veterinarians grapple with the task of compliance.
Veterinarians from around the state of Wyoming have various opinions on the rule, but most agree that it is important for accountability within the livestock industry.
“To me, this rule makes a lot of sense,” comments Casper veterinarian Don Cobb, who has been practicing veterinary medicine for 48 years. “Personally, I think this rule is long overdue from an accountability standpoint.”
Don Tolman, long-time Powell veterinarian, adds, “Disease traceability is good because we can isolate an outbreak of a specific disease, pinpoint a source and take care of it rapidly.”
While veterinarians agree that traceability is a good idea, they disagree on the best way to fund such an effort.
Producers around the state also have varied opinions that veterinarians are forced to contend with, comment both Cobb and Gould, and veterinarians see lack of knowledge about ADT in general.
“Producers have one of two attitudes about ADT,” says Cobb. “They either say, ‘This is the rule, and we have to comply,’ or ‘To hell with this rule.’”
Those who comply with the rule take on the additional costs of identifying livestock, while Cobb says that those who take the latter attitude choose to simply ignore it.
“We have some producers who are just not going to comply with the rule, and there is a lack of enforcement,” Cobb comments.
“Our enforcement teams don’t seem to be too upset about the rule,” he says, noting that he has anecdotal evidence of loads of cattle being transported between states without identification.
“If we have a rule that is being ignored, it doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense,” Cobb adds. “How are we going to enforce this?”
Meeteetse veterinarian Bill Gould’s largest concern is the lack of producer education.
“This rule has increased our workload with producers shipping cattle interstate,” he said. “We have to individually ID cattle, and that takes a lot of time.”
He adds, “The producer is not well-informed and doesn’t understand what we have to put on the health certificate.”
Gould suggests continued informational meetings to increase producer awareness.
The source of funding to implement the rule creates contention in the veterinary community.
“When Wyoming was considering using federal money to buy equipment to put into the ADT rule, I was concerned,” Tolman says. “My position is that Wyoming would be better off to fund the effort ourselves and control it ourselves, rather than have folks in Washington, D.C., who don’t understand us and our problems, control it.”
He continues that money talks and has influence over management, citing management of wildlife species – like wolves and grizzly bears – as an area where Wyoming could do a better job than the federal government.
“We’ve managed our money well in Wyoming, and we can afford to take care of it,” Tolman comments. “I don’t think we need to sell our souls to bigger government, which tends to be more corrupt.”
On the other side, Cobb notes, “When our Wyoming Livestock Board turned down the government grant, what they did was to put the responsibility on the sale barns.”
Cobb continues that economically, it makes sense for the livestock industry to stand behind ADT.
“If we look at our export partners, their objections are the lack of accountability and traceability of our livestock,” he explains. “Is this going to come back and haunt us? Are we going to be able to maintain our export market strength without traceability?”
In Cobb’s perfect world, high frequency radio frequency identification tags (RFID) and electronic readers would be used to identify cattle.
However, the equipment costs are expensive, and without readers, RFID tags are useless.
Gould echoes Cobb, saying, “Electronic identification and the ability to read those IDs with electronic equipment is the way to go.”
He adds, however, that the technology has not been perfected, and there is work to do.
“Electronic identification is the best, if we’ve got the equipment to read them,” Gould says. “Right now, we don’t have that capability.”
Tolman, however, emphasizes that brands remain effective for cattle identification, as well.
“Wyoming identification of cattle has been by a brand on the hide,” he says. “People in bigger cities think that putting an ear tag in, using a computer and doing things electronically is the solution. They don’t realize that when cattle get out in the hills, they lose tags. They don’t lose a brand.”
Regardless of the method, he realizes the importance of identification for animals.
“If we have an outbreak of disease, it is important that we have a system that is efficient, fast, economical and operated by our people who understand our issues,” Tolman adds.
“The biggest consideration we have is to get producers on board with this effort,” says Cobb.
With the positive effects that would result from identification, particularly those economic considerations, Cobb says the benefits are present.
“There are a big percentage of producers who are going to grumble and not really want to comply with the ADT rule, but they are going to because that is what is right,” Cobb says. “Then we will have a percentage who will totally ignore the rule. Those are the producers we need to concentrate on.”
Without a concentrated effort by the entire livestock industry, Cobb fears the rule will never be enforced properly and the benefits won’t be seen.
“Consumers are driving this effort in the background,” he says. “This is being driven by consumer, and not well accepted by the industry because the industry doesn’t understand it.”
This is part two of a four-part series. Look for the next segment focusing on producer’s opinions.
Animal disease traceability, while a good idea, says 48-year Casper veterinarian Don Cobb, was introduced to producers in such a way that created immediate pushback.
“When USDA came out with this rule several years ago, they said it was going to be mandatory,” he explains. “Immediately, producers were on the defensive.”
Cobb says that USDA didn’t clarify how the rule was going to be applied, what it would cost or where the information would be housed, only saying that identification would be mandatory.
“Producers have been on the defensive about it ever since,” says Cobb. “If we had this rule in place when we had one single case of BSE, or mad cow, in 2003, we would have never seen the effects on the market that we saw. We would have been able to trace its herd mates quickly.”
Looking forward, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has indicated an increased level of mandatory identification moving into the future but what and when is still up in the air.
“We can’t tell what APHIS is going to do because they change their minds,” 41-year Meeteetse veterinarian Bill Gould comments. “APHIS has said they will include steers in the future, as well, so it will be a lot more work.”
Traceability implementation continues in WyoWritten by Saige Albert
Nearly one year after USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) rule was published in the Federal Register, Wyoming’s auction markets continue to tackle the challenges associated with implementing the rule.
“We’ve already had to make these changes because of the standards imposed on us,” says Stacy Newby, owner of Worland Livestock Auction. “We don’t have a choice.”
Shawn Madden, co-owner of Torrington Livestock Auction, adds, “This rule creates an enormous amount of extra work for our crews. I see the solution in the use of technology.”
Through the chute
Newby notes that the measure requires more labor in running cattle through the chutes a second time to gather the identification from each animal, making it more costly.
“After our sale, we figure where the cattle are going, put them through the chute again to get identification numbers,” she explains. “It is dark, most of the time, and difficult to get the numbers off the animals’ metal id tags.”
Madden adds that crews at Torrington have worked to 3 a.m. or later to process cattle and obtain the identification information necessary for out of state shipment under the current system.
“It is also stressful on the animal and increases the chances of injury,” Newby says.
As a result of the additional labor, auction market owners note that increased costs are incurred with the rule.
“We’re a small market, and it impacts us, so I can only imagine how it affects the larger markets,” say Jay Godley of Buffalo Livestock Auction. “There is a lot of labor involved. On a cold night when it is below zero with the wind blowing, that isn’t fun.”
Newby adds that it costs three to five dollars more to run cattle through the chutes and be processed by a veterinarian again.
“We’ve passed on some of the increased costs,” Godley comments. “There are other options, like the wands to read electronic id tags, but that equipment costs, too.”
Equipment costs, however, are prohibitive, and as a small businesses, the markets are unable to purchase the expensive equipment.
“Either way, this rule is taking more money from the producer’s pockets, the buyer’s pocket or our pocket,” Newby said. “That is money that producers are not getting per head.”
Godley adds that the process also opens the door for increased error.
“When we physically have to ID more animals, we have to run them through the chute, so there is potential for error,” he explains. “We have one person reading the tag and another person writing it down. Then the vet has to transpose it on to the health forms.”
Godley adds, “There is a lot of possibility for mistakes.”
With a system that may be riddled with mistakes, Godley questions whether goals of the rule are being accomplished.
Godley also questions whether the individual identification currently improves the system.
“As far as my understanding goes, the information gathered goes to the state of Wyoming where it is stored in boxes,” he says. “It seems like we are doing a lot of work, and it seems like a futile effort. I do not believe a 48-hour trace back could be accomplished under the current system. A lot of data is being collected with no way to access it other than searching through boxes of old health papers and brand records.”
Each of the markets also addressed the Wyoming Livestock Board’s (WLSB) recent decision to not pursue federal grant funding to help comply with the rule.
“The WLSB members said they were concerned with taking government money,” Newby noted. “No sale barn has enough money laying around to purchase all the new equipment we need to comply more easily.”
Market owners continue that they are unsure whether the Board members have taken into account the opinions and needs of livestock markets in Wyoming.
“I find it very frustrating,” Newby adds.
Madden also notes that, at this point, he is looking for an option moving forward.
“I don’t know if the technology that may have been purchased using the grant money is the answer or not because I’ve never seen it work before, but what we are doing now isn’t the answer,” Madden says. “It takes too much time, man power and running cows through the chutes to work for long.”
He further notes, “I’m in the mood to try something. If we aren’t going to use federal grant money, what are we going to do? No plan is not a good plan.”
Madden adds that the unfunded federal mandate could be funded using federal grant dollars, and he didn’t understand concerns of the WLSB in not attempting to secure funding.
“The technology is there,” Madden comments. “I’m interested to see how we can apply it to what we are doing, and I’d appreciate the opportunity to see if it would fly. I’m very disappointed that we aren’t going to seek grant funding to try something.”
Proactive or reactive
Newby says that the mandate appeared before Wyoming had a chance to proactively address identification and traceability, and she was frustrated that actions were not implemented prior to the rule’s appearance.
“I would like to see Wyoming be progressive, get in line and work out the bugs in a system so other states want to try to replicate what we have done,” she says. “Why are we sitting back and waiting for the federal government to tell us what to do?”
“If the state of Wyoming was a little ahead of the game, we could try methods that would work and get the kinks out of a system,” Godley adds. “It would be advantageous to us, instead of waiting for the federal government to say how it will be. If the federal government could see something that works and have a model in Wyoming, it would be advantageous for everyone involved.”
This article is the first in a series focused on the impacts of the Animal Disease Traceability Rule across all segments of Wyoming’s agriculture industry. Look for the next segment on impacts to veterinarians in the coming weeks.
Scrapie program provides example for Wyo ID programWritten by Heather Hamilton
Cheyenne — During the late March Wyoming animal identification traceability meeting in Cheyenne, Wyoming Wool Growers Association (WWGA) Executive Vice President Bryce Reece explained the scrapie identification program, which is used nationwide
The program’s success both locally and nationally provided attendees with an example of an effective animal identification program currently in use in the state.
“The American sheep industry was faced with the issue of scrapie and the huge problem of having our markets shut down. Through the pushing of some producers and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the industry decided to form the goal of eradicating it from the United States,” explained Reece.
“When one BSE-infected cow was found in the U.S., it cost the U.S. cattlemen between one and two billion dollars, and that was one imported animal. If you can bring one cow into the U.S. and have it cost the industry over a billion dollars, we knew that the sheep industry was faced with the same potential nightmare,” he said.
Reece explained the goals of the program were to ensure it didn’t intrude on people’s personal privacy but was also effective. WWGA chose to support the national mandatory scrapie ID program while it was being developed.
“There was a task force for three years. It wasn’t without detractions and controversy, but we were able to work through that. I think, for the most part, those concerns have essentially gone away today,” added Reece.
The program was initially designed for breeding animals and those going into interstate commerce. Today it has evolved into tagging everything on most operations.
“It’s easier for most producers to tag everything, then sort. We don’t need to tag wether lambs that are going to slaughter, but for a lot of producers it’s not a problem for them to be tagged along with everything else,” says Reece.
He also notes that some producers choose not to tag animals until they are put on a truck, primarily because of the potential to lose tags out on the range.
“When those sheep are headed somewhere, they’ll put the tags in, ensuring everything is tagged prior to transit,” said Reece.
Tags are provided by APHIS for free and can be obtained either from APHIS or from a vet. There is no federal database or paperwork, which was a big selling point for the program and something at which several people at the meeting expressed concern regarding a Wyoming animal identification system.
“When a producer calls to get tags, his name, the date and the tag numbers issued are recorded. That’s it. A federal regulation states that when a producer tags animals, he is responsible for maintaining records for five years in the sheep scrapie program,” explained Reece.
He adds that having ranchers keep records eliminates the need for a database. The only records APHIS or the state vet can access are names, and that information is only accessed in the case of a potential problem. At that time the producer is contacted and it is his responsibility to provide records showing when he tagged the animal and when and where it was sold.
“If a producer can say, ‘I tagged her on this date, sold her on this date at this auction,’ APHIS or the vet can move on. This program really demonstrates the importance of records,” added Reece.
One criticism of the program is that nationally there are at least a dozen different tags that are considered official scrapie identification.
“Having that many different tags makes it very difficult for markets, purchasers and regulatory vets to determine exactly what ID is in that animal. I don’t know if a metal tag is best, but it would be better if there was one official tag,” added Wyoming State Veterinarian Jim Logan.
Logan said a tag retention study is being conducted in Wyoming in an effort to get the program geared toward adopting one official tag.
“It’s frustrating that tag retention studies weren’t thought of in the beginning, but that’s part of the process,” said Reece.
One effective traceback example Reece provided was a ewe that showed up in Wyoming and tested positive for non-typical scrapie. Due to her tag and the ability to traceback because of it, it was proven that, while she was in Wyoming when she turned up positive, she wasn’t born or hadn’t lambed in the state. Since the disease is picked up or transferred at lambing and she was from another state, it wasn’t Wyoming’s disease issue and the state was able to maintain its status.
“We think the program is working. It can be frustrating since we deal with an international marketplace and don’t produce enough lamb to meet our domestic needs. We’re tremendously affected by the international marketplace, and when you have places like Australia and New Zealand saying they don’t have scrapie, it can really come back and have a negative effect on our markets. That’s why the industry made the decision and commitment to try and eradicate this disease from the U.S..
“If, as a country, you don’t have scrapie, it could be a case where if you don’t look for it you don’t have it. But, through programs like ours, we can trace were they’ve been and know where they’re going. We believe we will get to the point where we can say we don’t have it, and be able to effectively back that statement up. For the most part this program has worked well. It has obviously been very effective in dealing with scrapie,” concluded Reece.
WLSB makes tags availableWritten by Saige
Veterinarians may order the tags by calling the WLSB office in Cheyenne at 307-777-7515.
These tags are only to be used in place of (not in addition to) the orange metal calf-hood vaccination (OCV) tags currently used in heifer calves. These OCV-RFID tags should not be used in cattle more than one year of age.
Previously these tags were reserved for use only in heifers originating from Wyoming’s Brucellosis Designated Surveillance Area (DSA). However the WLSB now allows use of the OCV-RFID tags in heifers originating from all areas of Wyoming. The tags are not to be used for imported heifers allowed into Wyoming under quarantine to be vaccinated on arrival, unless a Wyoming producer purchases the animals specifically for breeding replacement stock.
Additionally, the OCV-RFID tags may be used to participate in age and source verification programs, such as the Wyoming Business Council’s Wyoming Verified program.
“This is a great opportunity for Wyoming producers. Producers can use the OCV-RFID tag for herd health management, to add value to heifer calves and obtain access to domestic and export markets requiring official tags,” says John Henn, the Wyoming Verified program manager. “With Japan likely raising the age limit from 20 to under 30 months of age on beef imports, using these tags in place of the orange metal tags allows producers to market any open yearling heifers as age and source verified. It also meets other states’ requirements of sexually intact females needing official tags.”
When veterinarians complete the Brucellosis Vaccination Record (VS Form 4-24) after applying these OCV-RFID tags, the WLSB asks that the origin of the heifers be written on the face of the vaccination record. For example, if the heifers did not originate from the DSA, a statement similar to “heifers not from WY DSA” would suffice. The WLSB needs this information to help them more easily track where these OCV-RFID tags are being applied.
At the present time there is not a charge for these tags – they’re currently funded through a federal grant from USDA-APHIS administered by the WLSB. This policy may change at any time, depending on availability of funding, and a charge for the OCV-RFID tags may be instituted in the future.
For more information contact Wyoming State Veterinarian Jim Logan at 307-857-6131 or Wyoming Assistant State Veterinarian Bob Meyer at 307-777-7515.
Time for a Wyoming plan?Written by Jennifer Womack
Millions of dollars into the program, Congress is asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture what they have to show for their expenditures. Congressional amendments threaten the program’s future funding and grassroots opposition may prove insurmountable to the program’s installation. After all, what good is a national identification program if those who own livestock, or even a certain percentage of the animals, refuse to participate?
Some Wyomingites believe a homegrown approach may allow Wyoming to step into the leadership realm, setting the parameters by which such a program would operate in the state. It may be a chance to overcome primary producer concerns, such as the security of personal data.
“Nobody likes NAIS,” says Wyoming Livestock Board Member and Gillette veterinarian Eric Barlow. Of the seven-member Livestock Board, Barlow says he’s seen general agreement on opposition to the federal program. He believes a solution may be within reach and free of the national databases, rules and cumbersome implementation many fear could accompany NAIS.
“There are multiple identification requirements we as producers already have to comply with for regulatory diseases like brucellosis, trichomoniasis and scrapie,” says Barlow. “All of them have identification requirements that are age dependent and triggered by such things as shipment of animals.” Furthermore, Barlow says state-level rules are already in place for many of the programs.
“How do have a meaningful system with what we have?” asks Barlow of programs that he believes could be layered on top of the existing brand program. By combining the programs into a single source of information he wonders if the end result would be a fairly comprehensive ability to trace and locate animals. The federal government has stated the primary goal of NAIS as 48-hour traceback.
Barlow says, “This should be about marketability of our livestock and providing assurances to our trading partners, not a federal program requirement. If there is a disease issue, we can effectively and efficiently address it.”
Construction of a Wyoming based plan isn’t a new concept, but builds on two listening sessions and a survey the Livestock Board conducted about a year ago. Progress on the effort languished as more pressing topics, such as negotiations and rules surrounding brucellosis, consumed the agency’s time. As the federal government wrestles with the future of NAIS, the coming months may provide a window of opportunity through which Wyoming can move forward.
Members of the Livestock Board are hosting a public listening session on Aug. 12 from 8:30 a.m. to noon. During that time members of the public will be asked their opinions on the future of animal identification in the state. On a related note, there will also be discussions on the agency’s brand inspection and recording programs. Barlow will serve as moderator for the morning conference.
Producers attending the gathering will also have the opportunity to comment on the Livestock Board’s Chapter 6 rules creating a brucellosis risk mitigation program and the Chapter 8 rules pertaining to the importation of livestock to Wyoming. Animal welfare, slated to be a topic at the 2010 session of the Wyoming Legislature, will also be discussed. Trichomoniasis, tuberculosis and brucellosis are specific diseases that will be discussed at the meeting to take place in the easternmost meeting room at McKibben Cafeteria on the Wyoming State Fairgrounds.