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Traceability Rule Would Impact Wisconsin Livestock Producers

Traceability Rule Would Impact Wisconsin Livestock Producers
Drafts of the plan have been shared with industry groups.

On Aug. 9, USDA Secretary Vilsack announced the publication of the proposed rule regarding disease traceability. The proposed rule was developed with input from state animal health officials, industry members and producers over the past 18 months. Drafts of the proposed rule had been shared with industry groups like WLIC, however, with the publishing of the rule in the Federal Register on Aug. 11 we would like to discuss some key implications for producers in the state of Wisconsin.  

The first key point of the proposed rule is that the federal program will focus on the movement of livestock between states by setting specific minimum federal standards as to which animals need to be identified, methods of identification and which movement information needs to be collected when animals move between states. The new direction puts states in charge of implementation using this set of national standards. This direction supports the direction WLIC has followed the past eight years by developing its own state database and implementation of a system that works in Wisconsin but meets national standards.

As USDA has pointed out, this approach provides individual states the flexibility to work with their livestock industry in developing a system for disease traceability. It is important to know that the USDA proposed rule does not trace animals from "farm to fork." A state can meet the USDA proposed rule by identifying the animal back to the last point in the state prior to departure. Tracing the animal back to the farm of origin is the responsibility of each individual state. According to Robert Fourdraine, COO of WLIC, "This is the key decision that Wisconsin livestock producers and industry have to address in the coming year.  Wisconsin must do better than the minimum standard set by USDA. The trace back of a diseased animal to Wisconsin could have a major impact on the livestock industry and producers if we cannot quickly trace that animal back to the source farm and stop the further spread of the disease."

The second key point of the proposed rule refers to what forms of identification will be accepted as official ID. Under the proposed rule USDA will have several options depending on species. Certain forms of official identification currently accepted will be phased out. USDA opted to make the silver bright metal ear tag the base choice for cattle because of its low cost, however states and producers can choose other forms of official ID tags such as an 840 RFID tag as well. A key provision in the proposed rule is that animals that have an official ID tag and move out of state cannot be tagged with another official ID tag. The number that is on the animal will have to be recorded on the health papers that accompany the animal.  Although the silver metal ear tag is cheap, additional costs and effort could result from having to restrain the animal and manually record the number while an electronic ID tag may have higher upfront costs but is less labor intensive trying to record the number.

So what are some of the day to day changes that a producer could expect under this new rule? It all depends on which type of livestock you are taking or selling to a location out of state. The USDA proposed rule focuses mainly on cattle leaving or entering the state while other species will see little change compared to the rules already in place today. 

A cattle example would be someone taking a registered dairy heifer to an out of state show. The rule would require that animal to have an official ID tag on the heifer prior to leaving the state and have the veterinarian write a health paper. Currently breed registry certificates with tattoos, photos, sketches, or tags with American ID numbers are accepted by USDA as official ID, but under the proposed rule these forms of official ID would be phased out. That means the veterinarian would apply an official USDA silver metal ear tag, or the producer could opt to buy tags with the AIN (840) number which are official USDA approved ID tags.

The proposed rule should mark some improvement in the ability to trace diseased animals that move interstate by virtue of standardizing some of the forms of official ID and reporting of interstate movement.  The final result will be decided within each state based on the implementation of the final rule. Individual states will need to decide what system will be in place in the event a diseased animal is traced back to their state since that is not defined in the proposed rule. Once the proposed rule is implemented USDA will define the various measurements and potential penalties by which states will be held accountable for having an effective system to trace an animal back to its farm of origin.

With the support of producers and livestock industry we feel confident the traceability system developed in Wisconsin by WLIC and DATCP will meet the USDA requirements and more while protecting producers' information.  

The mission of the Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium is to create a secure livestock identification system to protect animal health and market access, and to offer opportunities that enhance the marketability of Wisconsin livestock products. Representing more than fifty businesses, organizations and livestock producer associations, WLIC draws upon the collective strength of its diverse membership to help strengthen and advance animal disease traceability in Wisconsin and the nation as a whole. To learn more about WLIC visit

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