Disease traceback Impacts discussed at listening sessionWritten by Christy Martinez
Douglas – On Aug. 11 the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) published in the Federal Register a 115-page proposed rule to “establish general regulations for improving the traceability of U.S. livestock moving interstate when animal disease events take place.”
“Our proposal strives to meet the diverse needs of the animal agriculture industry and our state and tribal partners, while also helping us all reach our goal of increased animal disease traceability,” said chief veterinary officer for the United States John Clifford upon the rule’s release. “We believe reaching our goals on traceability will help save the industry and American taxpayer’s money in the long term.”
However, members of Wyoming’s ag industry have their doubts, and at the Wyoming Livestock Board’s listening session at the Wyoming State Fair on Aug. 17, Wyoming Assistant State Veterinarian Bob Meyer shared his thoughts on the proposal, which is open for public comment for 90 days until Nov. 9.
“This will impact producers in Wyoming, big time,” said Meyer, noting the rule would will apply to cattle, bison, horses, poultry, sheep, goats, swine and captive cervids. “The next 90 days are critical for the industry to study this thing, get their comments and look at the impacts. Any time there are impacts, you know there’s a cost involved, and you can figure out where that cost will come back to.”
“We’ve been talking about a voluntary program here in Wyoming, and what that would look like, but we’ve yet to define that,” said Meyer. “This rule will help give us some strong guidance, at least if our cattle will leave Wyoming going to other states, on what will have to be on those cattle.”
Meyer said USDA’s plan is to phase in the traceability program, through a Phase I and Phase II. Phase I of the program would require all sexually intact cattle 18 months of age and older to be officially identified, as well as dairy cattle and bison of any age, in addition to cattle used for rodeo, recreational events, shows or exhibitions.
However, he said that, as with any rule, there are exceptions, such as commuter herds. Cattle would also be allowed to cross state lines with a form of identification apart from official ID as agreed upon by the respective state veterinarians.
“Therein lies the brand issue, and right now we have no idea which of our surrounding states will participate with us,” said Meyer. “We have an idea that some will, but we don’t think they all will. If this finally goes into affect, after comments are taken and after USDA looks at the comments for months or years, at that time we’ll talk with the surrounding state vets to see who will accept brands as identification.”
Another exception in Phase I are cattle moving directly to slaughter through an approved sale yard – they can move with a USDA-approved backtag.
Eventually, Meyer said USDA would like to get to the point where every cow has only one official identification device.
“They want only one official ID or method applied, but with certain exceptions. State vets can approve second devices, and if you have cows and calves that are already Bangs vaccinated, but want an RFID tag, you can put it in, as well,” said Meyer. “They eventually see the cows with only one official ID in their ear from birth to death – that’s their vision.”
He added that doesn’t include a producer’s ranch tags.
Naturally, the removal of an official ID device is prohibited, except at slaughter, and producers would be able to replace original tags with new ones.
“If you know what the other tag was, write that down and keep those records for five years,” said Meyer.
Of the reality of the impacts, Meyer said he thinks they will be seen mainly at markets.
“This program requires an ICVI, or Interstate Certificate of Veterinary Inspection, for non-slaughter cattle,” said Meyer. “A copy of the certificate has to be forwarded to the state of origin, then that state has five days to send it to the state of destination. What I see is the biggest impact is the official ID number must be recorded on the ICVI, unless the cattle are less than 18 months of age or are dairy steers, non-rodeo steers and spayed heifers.”
For example, he said if 150 cows are going from Worland to Nebraska for feeding, all 150 cows will have to be put through the chute to have their ID number individually written on the face of the health certificate.
“Auction barn owners will be really interested in the impacts on them,” said Meyer of the time required to write down the individual IDs.
Meyer said the intent of the program is for all steers and feeder heifers to have official identification when shipped interstate, but if they’re less than 18 months of age they don’t have to be individually listed on the health certificate – they just have to have a statement saying they’re individually identified.
“Right now, Phase I only talks about adult breeding cows 18 months and older,” noted Meyer, adding that another problem he sees is what happens with those individual IDs on the ICVIs after they’re read and recorded.
“What good is the paper record?” he asked. “It’s not searchable, but the intent is that these will be state programs, so the IDs will need to be put into a state database. If we do all this work, how will we get the information into a searchable database? The USDA is saying this will be a state program, so it’s up to us to enter the information.”
Wyoming State Veterinarian Jim Logan and Meyer have already been in discussions with APHIS on the proposed traceability rule, and they’ve also been on conference calls with industry groups.
“At our last two listening sessions the Livestock Board has talked about the possibility of developing a voluntary program that fits Wyoming,” said Logan. “At this stage in the game we don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle to know what we should shoot for, but we know more now than we did even a few weeks ago, so we need to have discussions in-state on what we can do to help producers be in compliance.”
“Regardless of what happens with the federal rule, the other states will develop identification requirements for cattle, sheep and goats that are being imported into their states. I’d hope there wouldn’t end up being 50 programs we have to satisfy to export our Wyoming cattle,” continued Logan. “It’s imminently important now that our industry and the Livestock Board continue dialogue to put something together for a Wyoming program we can make work for us.”