Although animal-disease traceability became a fact of life for U.S. beef producers and veterinarians in March 2013, some implementation details remain in the “hammering out” stage.
Last month’s Joint Strategy Forum on Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) focused largely on harmonizing the compliance process across states and tribes, to facilitate market efficiency while achieving the program’s goal of traceability for timely and effective intervention in case of a disease event.
A key feature of the ADT rule is the USDA has turned implementation and management over to individual states and tribes, meaning that within the rule’s guidelines, states can choose their requirements for cattle coming in and can negotiate agreements with other states on types of documentation they will accept. That feature allows considerable flexibility for state animal-health officials to craft a system that works for their producers, but it also creates potential confusion or compliance challenges for producers, veterinarians and market personnel.
The forum, hosted by the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA) and the U.S. Animal Health Association (USAHA), brought together state veterinarians, USDA officials and industry representatives to discuss the current status of ADT and ongoing work to streamline the process.
The ADT rule requires identification for certain classes of cattle destined for interstate shipment. All sexually intact cattle 18 months of age or older fall under the rule, as do dairy-breed cattle of any age or sex, and all cattle transported to shows, exhibits or rodeos. Beef calves and feeder cattle less than 18 months of age are not covered by the rule. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has stated its intention to address those classes of cattle in a separate, future rulemaking process.
Covered classes of cattle moving across state lines need official identification and documentation. The default or “gold standard” documentation is the Interstate Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (ICVI). Some other documents such as brand-inspection certificates can work in place of the ICVI if the shipping and receiving states have agreed upon the documents. Likewise, in addition to official ear tags, brands or breed-registry tattoos can meet program requirements if the shipping and receiving states have such an agreement. The ADT General Standards document, available online from APHIS, contains detailed information about ID devices and numbering systems.
To unravel some of the variability in the ways individual states are administering the ADT system, USDA, in cooperation with NIAA, USAHA and the Livestock Marketing Association, recently conducted a survey of state animal-health regulatory offices. Ohio State Veterinarian Tony Forshey summarized the results, based on responses from 41 of 50 states.
• Thirty-four states distribute National Uniform Ear-tagging System tags, also known as metal or “brite” tags, to producers.
• Thirty-nine states have electronic IC VIs available.
• Twenty-five states have commuter herd agreements with other states, 23 have alternative ID agreements and 20 have agreements for movement documents other than ICVI and owner/shipper statements.
• Nineteen states accept brands as of ficial identification; five accept them in all cases and 14 in limited cases.
• Thirty-one states accept breed registries as official identification, 15 in all cases and 11 in limited cases.
• Some indicated they require official identification for cattle not covered by the rule. For example, nine states indicated they require official identification on steers and spayed heifers below 18 months of age entering their states, and 16 indicated the same for sexually intact beef animals less than 18 months of age.
• Twenty-three of the responding states indicated they have official identification requirements for cattle moving within their states.
Throughout the forum, it became clear that regional differences in the ways cattle are marketed and the role of market facilities influence the ways states administer ADT and cooperate with neighboring states. Cows in large western herds, for example, might only move through a market once in their lives, but might ship in relatively large numbers when managers cull herds. In the Southeast, cows could walk the auction ring multiple times and typically go to market in small lots.
Many of the smaller auction facilities, particularly in the East and Southeast, do not have a veterinarian on hand throughout the sale or, in some cases, ever. Instead, they rely on state or federally accredited technicians to monitor the health of cattle arriving at the facility. Several state veterinarians from southeastern states noted they have reached cooperative agreements with neighboring states to allow movement of cattle with alternative official documents instead of the ICVI.
Several western states have indicated they have reached agreements with neighboring states to use brands, along with the ICVI, for interstate movement.
These discussions led to a general consensus among participants that regional harmonization of ADT policies might be more realistic than national harmonization, with groups of neighboring states developing agreements that fit their producers and markets.
Outreach and education will be critical as many producers and veterinarians remain unclear on the details and requirements of ADT.
Several participants pointed out that ADT requirements are not that much different from management and marketing practices that have been in use for decades, such as official identification for disease-control programs, sale facilities collecting information on buyers, sellers and livestock, and veterinarians inspecting animals and issuing health certificates. With time, effort and perhaps a little patience, we should be able to make ADT work.