Livestock identification bill would move voluntary state program forward
A livestock identification bill that will come before the Wyoming Legislature in the upcoming 2011 general session will not be specific to cattle, but will also incorporate sheep, swine and other livestock.
“USDA/APHIS has told us at recent meetings that, within a couple years at least, some categories of livestock will be required to have official identification at the time of interstate movement,” says Wyoming State Veterinarian Jim Logan. He adds that the meetings have included APHIS, the 50 state veterinarians and numerous producers and representatives from producer groups and tribal nations.
“There’s been talk about starting the requirement, and only requiring breeding animals to be identified at first, which would eventually evolve into a program where perhaps even feeder animals would be identified,” explains Logan. “I’m not certain where that’s going, but the key difference between what’s being discussed now on the national scene and the old NAIS is that APHIS has finally seen the light – that this will work much better if they do it like we told them they should, and let states develop programs through a state process, and include producers to help it stay industry driven.”
Logan emphasizes the state program in Wyoming would be voluntary, subject only to what the markets and other states dictate. “We’ll have to follow along if we want to continue to market Wyoming cattle,” he says.
The Wyoming Livestock Identification and Traceability program would incorporate existing systems to the maximum extent possible.
“We already have mandatory identification in the Chapter 2 brucellosis rules for female cattle 12 months old and older prior to change of ownership, and we also have an identification requirement in the vaccination requirement for female cattle,” explains Logan, adding there are also identification requirements for bulls in the state’s trichomoniasis rules, and that the scrapie rules for sheep and goats incorporate federal identification requirements.
“This identification program would incorporate those, and the idea would be that the Wyoming Livestock Board would promulgate rules through our state process to determine what we would do within Wyoming. I think we can make this a program that will enable producers within Wyoming to transition cattle very readily when the other states’ and APHIS’s requirements come down,” says Logan.
“We’ve been told by Colorado, South Dakota and Nebraska state veterinarians that ‘shortly’ their states will require official identification on breeding cattle, at the minimum,” he adds.
APHIS has said that official identification would include any device approved by the APHIS administrator, including RFID tags, existing brucellosis vaccination tags or 840 tags.
“There’s opportunity to be fairly flexible with what type of tag is employed, but it will have to be considered ‘official identification’ for interstate movement,” says Logan.
Regarding management of the state identification system, Logan says that, to some extent, integration is needed. “If we can get animal health, brand inspection and the brand recording programs together, so we can retrieve comprehensive data, our capabilities to trace will be increased,” he says.
Of including the “voluntary” aspect of the program, Logan says, “If something is voluntary, and 90 percent of producers voluntarily participate, and I have a disease trace from one who chose not to participate, it will affect my capability for an accurate trace.”
However, he says having the word “voluntary” in the legislation is the reason the Wyoming Livestock Board supports going ahead with the bill. The Wyoming Stock Growers Association also passed resolution supporting “voluntary.”
“We support this bill as it’s written,” says WSGA Executive Vice President Jim Magagna. “I believe it can be market driven, including what the other state vets require us to do. We don’t believe it’s necessary or prudent to mandate animal identification, because we’ll get there. A high percentage of producers will do it in a few years, and if we need to come back and mandate to pick up the remaining five percent, that’s preferable to mandating 100 percent up front.”
“Industry support largely hinged on this being a voluntary program,” says Logan. “The reality is the market will drive this, whether we like it or not. It’s a matter of semantics, and will probably be a mandatory situation, whether we in Wyoming call it that or not.”
By mid-2011 APHIS expects to publish in the Federal Register a requirement for certain categories of livestock, such as breeding animals, to be officially identified prior to interstate movement.
“Other states are waiting to see what exactly the federal side does, but Colorado and Oklahoma, within a short period of time, will require all cattle, including feeder animals, to be identified,” says Logan. “This is imminent from a traceability standpoint, and to maintain the marketability of Wyoming livestock to other states.”
“We need to have something available for Wyoming producers to partake in, so they can take advantage of getting the tags from us, and we’ll have a system to record where those tags are distributed,” notes Logan.
“We do have feeders and weaned calves that leave the state without being identified, and that’s been a huge concern to many trading partner states, especially with cattle coming from the brucellosis designated surveillance area,” he continues. “They want the cattle identified.”
Logan says discussion at animal identification meetings for Wyoming has leaned toward going with an official button tag – perhaps gold and brown – at 35 cents each.
“The intent is flexibility and a variety of tag types approved by APHIS,” says Logan, reiterating that many current program tags would work, including the source and age verification tags currently in use by the Wyoming Business Council.