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RSS By: Steve Cornett, Beef Today

Read the latest blog from Steve Cornett.

A Slow Start for Animal ID

Jan 14, 2013

Yawn. Did you see a lot of news coverage about USDA’s new animal disease traceability program last month and you wonder what it means to you?

Not much, I’m afraid. Not in this form, anyhow. It applies only to cattle moving across state lines and then only to cattle over 18 months or traveling to shows, exhibitions, rodeos or recreational events. Cattle moving straight to slaughter—cull cows and bulls , for instance—are exempt, as well.

So, nearly as I can tell, most of the people impacted with be those who haul cattle to shows or sell mature cows and bulls to people from other states So, mostly purebred breeders, I guess. If you’re like me and sometimes haul cull cows--or calves, for that matter--to an out-of-state sale barn, it seems to have no effect.

Not that there’s anything to complying, anyhow. A bangs tag or brand will do as well as an electronic ID tag, thank you.

Which is to say, we are working our way into a national identification program very slowly and, I daresay, not very surely.

It makes me impatient. This deal will be of some help in tracing things like brucellosis, trich and BSE—the stuff they find in old cows. But those are molehill problems alongside the mountainous threat of foot and mouth disease. where these rules  won’t be much help at all. FMD’s most likely route to industry ruin would  be in the millions of feeder cattle shipped around the country.

I can understand where USDA is coming from. Their efforts at building a useful program in 2009 ran into a super storm of whining from producers. I suppose I shouldn’t blame USDA—or NCBA, for that matter—for not standing up to the rowdies and pushing ahead with the sort of ID program that will protect us against disease outbreak AND make it easier to get our beef into foreign markets.

It’s obvious the plan is to move into it a bit at a time. USDA says this will give them a chance to feel feel their way into the program—identify glitches, and such. It also will let the "reluctants" see that it isn’t that hard or expensive. So then, you bring the feeder cattle and calves in later. They probably know what they’re doing. And we’ll probably get away with it.

We’ve been a long time without an FMD outbreak.

And, all they’ve done is set up a minimal set of rules for interstate shipment, states can go further for in-state movement. In Texas, for instance, we have to provide ID on any animal marketed. Other states are even more stringent.

So for now, the smart thing is to check with your state animal health authority before you ship cattle. Your veterinarian will also know what it takes to get the interstate certificate of veterinary inspection or other documentation, such as owner-shipper statements or brand certificates needed to comply with the federal law, as well as any local requirements.

Meanwhile, I’ll be patient. And hope we don’t get a nasty surprise while we’re easing into this "21st Century" 15 or 20 years too late.


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