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Aphis Finalizes Rule Requiring Electronic Id Tags for Certain Cattle, Bison

By Coco Lederhouse

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced April 26 it will issue a final rule that mandates electronic identification (EID) tags for interstate movement of certain cattle and bison to prevent disease outbreaks.

The advance copy of the rule states that 180 days after publication, all official ear tags applied to such cattle and bison must be visually and electronically readable. The regulation enhances a previous 2013 rule that requires all sexually intact cattle and bison 18 months of age or older, dairy cattle, and rodeo and exhibition cattle to have an official form of animal identification.

The 2013 rule instituted visual ID tags for interstate movement. The new final rule switches producers to EID tags. Additionally, the new rule clarifies certain record retention and access requirements and revises some requirements applying to slaughter cattle.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is implementing a modern system that tracks animals using affordable technology to trace sick and exposed animals to stop disease spread quickly. The latest regulation mandates the use of electronic identification tags for specific interstate movements of cattle and bison.

The most significant benefit of the rule for farmers and ranchers is the enhanced national capability to limit the impacts of animal disease outbreaks to certain regions, the USDA said in a press release.

“Rapid traceability in a disease outbreak will not only limit how long farms are quarantined, keep more animals from getting sick, and help ranchers and farmers get back to selling their products more quickly—but will help keep our markets open,” said Dr. Michael Watson, APHIS administrator, in a press release.

While animal disease traceability does not prevent disease, efficient technology, tools, and processes such as EID tags can reduce the number of animals and response time involved in a disease investigation. For example, EID tags can be used to collect data about premise location of an animal during specific points in time, which can be traced quickly in an animal disease event, said Jamie Jonker, chief science officer at the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF).

Many dairy farms have been using radio frequency identification (RFID) tags for years, incorporating their use into electronic animal management systems, which record such things as animal health events, reproduction information, and milk production data, Jonker said.

APHIS focuses on interstate movement of livestock, and states and tribal nations remain responsible for the traceability of livestock within their jurisdictions. APHIS partners with state veterinary officials each year to test their traceability systems, according to the rule.

“NMFP has supported mandatory animal identification with RFID tags for dairy cattle for more than 20 years and appreciates the steps that USDA has taken over the years to enhance animal disease traceability,” Jonker said.

The USDA will continue to provide free tags to producers to jumpstart efforts to enable the fastest possible response to a foreign animal disease.

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