Nebraska Animal Disease Traceability committee to include rodeo representative
for Tri-State Livestock News
An agricultural committee has been revived in Nebraska. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture is seating an Animal Disease Traceability Advisory Committee, after a few years’ absence of the state having such a committee.
And for the first time, a rodeo representative will be on that committee.
Jared Slagle, Sargent, Neb., has been chosen to represent Nebraska rodeos on the committee, which includes representatives from 18 entities, such as livestock organizations, the Nebraska State Fair, Aksarben, and other industries or groups involved in agriculture.
The committee will be chaired by Ross Baker, program manager for Animal Disease Traceability at the NDA.
In an email sent to potential members, Baker said the committee’s purpose will be “to gain insight from the various parts of livestock and equine activities on how to improve ADT effectivenes. The committee will make recommendations to (the Nebraska Department of Agriculture), who will respond to recommendations with modifications, a commitment to move forward, or a reason for a recommendation not being accepted.”
One aspect of the committee’s work will be to have a framework of reference in tracking disease among livestock. For example, the push in the cattle industry is a unique ear tag for any breeding animal over 18 months of age. Many cattle producers already use ear tags for herd management and analysis. Some proponents of the concept say an ADT system with unique electonic ear tags would make identifying animals potentially affected by diseases easier.
With poor animal identification, quarantine or disease treatment response affects more animals and herds, slowing down the process and tying up people’s livelihoods. With better identification, fewer animals would hopefully need to be tested or treated and fewer owners or operations are involved in the response effort. “We’re looking to track animals with the goal of not having to check numerous herds (or flocks),” Baker said. “There is less expense, because while you test a herd, the business isn’t operating normally.”
NOT A MANDATE
Baker stressed that the committee’s purpose is not to mandate animal identification to the livestock, rodeo and exhibition industries, but to cooperate with them and develop processes that interfere as little as possible with the industry, event or activity. “We need to make sure the business can continue to operate normally.” The USDA and NDA will not mandate but encourages the use of official identification with electronic identification as the preferred way to help manage herds and animals.
In the case of rodeos, a contestant and his or her horse might compete at a half-dozen rodeos a week, traveling several hundred miles to do so. “We want cowboys and (rodeo) organizers in compliance, so that in the event that a disease occurs, we know where that horse was and when, so we can find other people’s animals that were exposed,” Baker said.
The committee, with Slagle’s input, will ask for “suggestions from the rodeo community. How can we meet the rules that are in place, without slowing down the activities of the rodeo? We don’t want to slow the rodeo down, but we do need information on the animals’ movements,” Baker said.
12 Microchips in horses’ shoulders are a possible way to identify individual horses, Baker said. Brands work well; they don’t pinpoint a specific animal, but in the case of cattle, they can be tracked back to an owner. “We can get an idea of where we need to go first, then hopefully find a point where there is an individual identification and affect fewer producers,” Baker said.
Poultry and swine are usually not tagged and their traceability is easier to track, Baker said, since they are usually delivered to the next operation in big groups, with a premises ID number, which is tied to an address. The ID number is anonymous, so address information is not public knowledge, but the NDA and USDA can track a herd or flock back to its owner.
The Nebraska Trucking Association was also asked, for the first time, to have a representative on the committee. That is to get the truckers’ perspective and keep them informed, Baker said.
Slagle looks forward to working on the committee. He competed in the saddle bronc riding in high school and college, and is now a rodeo announcer and music director and is involved in rodeos across the state and the nation. “I think it’s a positive thing for the sport of rodeo,” he said, “to have someone directly involved with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture. When it comes to western sports and rodeo, it’s always good to be proactive within our state.”
Being able to track individual animals is important in more ways than just for tracking down diseased animal movements. Diseases are introduced more quickly than they were a half-century ago, because the population travels internationally more than they used to. Biosecurity and food security is also a concern, and the perception among non-ag people about the food they eat is also important. “If the consumer perceives that the food they eat might not be safe, whether it is or isn’t, that market is going to drop. We want to be able to protect our industry not only from disease, but the perception of the consumer,” Baker said.
Unique identification is also valuable to international markets, like China, who want full traceability.
“We have to work towards that goal, without slowing down the industry,” Baker said. “We want (the industry) to grow.”
The representatives on the ADT advisory committee will be from these groups: U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, Nebraska Poultry Industries, Nebraska Pork Producers, Nebraska Cattlemen Association, Nebraska Sheep & Goat Producer Association, Nebraska Horse Clubs Association, Nebraska Pro Rodeo, Nebraska State Dairy Association, Nebraska State Fair, Aksarben, Livestock Marketing Association Markets, Non-Livestock Marketing Association Markets, Nebraska Trucking Association, Nebraska Brand Committee, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, Nebraska FFA, Nebraska Department of Agriculture, and the USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service-Veterinary Services. ❖
— Nicolaus is a freelance writer from Blue Hill, Neb., and a Great Plains girl at heart. She can be reached at Nicolaus@gtmc.net.