Alerted to a recent new federal rule called Animal Disease Traceability, which mandates official identification for livestock, several feedyards in Nebraska and across the country are taking steps to get in compliance.
At Gottsch Feedyards in Red Cloud, Neb., Scott Bonifas, manager for nearly 10 years, said although they took a break for a couple of years from identifying their vast amount of livestock in the yard with ear tags and documentation, they now have everything ready to restart the cattle identification process.
“We tested it a couple of years ago,” Bonifas told The Fence Post. “We quit doing it to cut back on costs, but we’re prepared with the ear tags and the computer system that we’ve got.”
“We track 49,000 cattle in our yards and we’re prepared to do it again,” he added.
The new federal rule, called Animal Disease Traceability, became effective March 11, and calls for minimum national official identification and documentation requirements for the traceability of livestock.
Another Nebraska feedyard that just bucked up to the challenge, acknowledged there are more steps now to get in compliance with the new federal rule.
“We work with a consulting veterinarian and it will be some extra work monitoring cattle; more so on the incoming side than the outgoing, to make sure that the incoming cattle are officially documented,” said Alan Janzen, owner of Circle Five Beef, a feedyard and finishing facility in Henderson, Neb. “At times we ship fed cattle into Kansas for slaughter, but primarily our shipments are to packers across Nebraska, and that covers about 95 percent.
“We hope to comply right from the start.”
Meanwhile, southward across the state border, at least one Kansas sale barn never stopped putting the metal tag on their livestock.
Owners Barry and Angii Kort of Belleville 81 Livestock Sales in Belleville, Kan., 20 minutes from Nebraska, say that, while some sale barns quit a few years ago, they’ve always put a metal tag in any animal older than 18 months.
“It’s new for some barns, because they will have to start it again and trace it,” Barry Kort said. “But it’s not for new for us. We IDed everything years ago, and being on the state line of Nebraska — now they’re making everyone in Kansas do it again; put that little metal tag in their ear.
“In fact, they told everyone that they could quit doing it back in the late 1990s, when they announced everything was brucellosis-free, but we never quit doing it,” added Kort, who’s owned Belleville 81 since 2002 — after previously managing the facility after working there since his childhood — and receives a lot of cattle from all over Kansas and Nebraska. “We just continued running our cows through the chutes and put a metal tag in their ears. We ship and get cattle from both states, and this way, if there ever was a problem, we could trace it.”
Kansas Department of Agriculture officials have relayed that, unless otherwise exempt, animals moved interstate must be officially identified and accompanied by an Interstate Certificate of Veterinary Inspection, known as ICVI, and also referred to as Health Papers.
“Our import requirements to bring livestock into Kansas, have always been to show health papers and official identification for sexually intact cattle 18 months of age and older,” said Kendra Frasier, animal disease traceability coordinator for the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s Division of Animal Health. “That part is still the same for many states, including Kansas and Nebraska. However, other states have had fewer requirements up to this point, so this new federal law levels the playing field across the country.
“Some states, which are primarily exporters of livestock, previously didn’t have strict import requirements, because they’re not major livestock importers,” Frasier explained.
Dairy requirements more stringent
The new rule is stricter on dairy import requirements.
“Whereas previously, there was an exemption for dairy steers and spayed heifers to not have them individually listed on health papers, now this new law requires all dairy cattle of any age to be officially identified, and their ID’s individually listed on the accompanying health papers,” Frasier said.
The official ID requirements are for:
— All sexually intact beef cattle 18 months of age or older (it’s called a test-eligible age, and has been in effect ever since the brucellosis eradication efforts in the 1990s.)
— All dairy cattle of any age
— All cattle used for rodeo, recreation, show or exhibition
“Rodeo animals have always required health papers because of the opportunity for disease transmission with interstate movement for events,” relayed Frasier.
A notable exemption to the identification requirement is for livestock moved directly to slaughter, since there’s no need to put a permanent ear tag on an animal that is going to be slaughtered within the next few days.
“In this case, they don’t need ear tags, and they don’t need health papers if they’re going directly to slaughter,” said Frasier. This exemption specifically applies to cattle that are moved directly to a recognized slaughtering establishment or directly to an approved livestock facility and then immediately to a recognized slaughtering facility and are accompanied by an owner-shipper statement.
“The words, ‘directly to slaughter,’ are key here, because depending on the market, some people will feed culled cows out for 30 days at a feedlot and then take them to the packing plant,” Frasier noted. “That doesn’t count as ‘directly to slaughter.’ So that means they would need ear tags and health papers.”
Another reason cattle would be exempt from needing an ICVI is if the cattle are moved directly to an approved livestock facility with an owner-shipper statement and not moved interstate from the facility unless accompanied by the ICVI.
This exemption is specifically for producers who don’t have the facilities available at their ranch or farm to handle the tagging. If they transport their livestock directly to an approved tagging facility, then they’re exempt from these rules because the approved facility may put tags in for them.
Other scenarios that don’t require the ICVI:
— If cattle are moved between two states as a commuter herd, which is an official agreement between the livestock owner and animal health officials.
— If the livestock are moved from the farm of origin for a veterinary exam or treatment, and then back to the farm of origin.
The point is disease control
“This improves the ability of animal health officials’ to trace livestock when disease is found,” Frasier said. “It minimizes the amount of time, as well as people, livestock and money involved in a disease trace-back.”
This, in turn, reduces the economic strain on owners and affected communities.
The A.D.T. rule is also intended to benefit producers, by requiring fewer cattle to be tested during any animal disease investigation.
Since currently, bovine tuberculosis disease investigations go beyond 150 days, it results in having USDA and state investigative teams spend a large amount of time and money conducting trace-backs. Officials say the A.D.T. rule offers more accurate traceability information, which would be easily available to animal health officials, and subsequently more quickly control the spread of certain diseases.
There are two forms of ear-tags that producers can use:
1. A USDA-approved metal tag
2. An 840-compliant tag (RFID or visual)
The metal and the 840-compliant tags are considered official identification tags.
The metal ones are provided by the state, and the 840-compliant may be ordered from a USDA-approved manufacturer.
In addition, USDA-approved back tags are acceptable identification for livestock moved directly to slaughter, and are most commonly used by livestock markets for this purpose.
Kansas has approved tag distributors, which can provide the metal tags to producers to apply to their own livestock.
Tag distributors may possibly include veterinarians, livestock markets and extension offices.
Frasier suggests contacting your tag office ahead of time to be sure they’re in stock.
Also, Frasier recommends producers ask their veterinarian to always call the state of destination regarding their specific importing requirements.
“Although this is now a minimum set of requirements, each state may have even more specific requirements for disease prevention programs. So, be sure they are contacted first,” she advised.
Kansas doesn’t have mandatory brand inspections, so it’s not considered a ‘brand state,’ and will not accept brands as official identification or brand certificates as official documentation.
Other states such as Colorado, Montana and Wyoming do have mandatory brand inspections.
Kansas-accredited veterinarians may write health papers for Kansas livestock.
“Just work with your veterinarian,” Frasier suggests.
“It’ll be kind of interesting to see how the final rule plays out,” said Janzen, “But we’re working closely with our Nebraska Cattlemen’s Association to keep up with the compliance, with this new rule.” ❖