With a letter to stakeholders this week, Kevin Shea, administrator of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced new steps toward full implementation of the federal Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) system. Those steps, he says, include exercising and testing the system, further educating producers and others about ADT requirements and, eventually, initiating enforcement actions for non-compliance.

APHIS moving toward next steps in traceabilityAPHIS published its final rule Traceability for Livestock Moving Interstate in January 2013, and the rule took effect on March 11, 2013. The ADT program intends to provide traceability of animals to their farms of origin in case of a disease outbreak, while offering individual states and tribes flexibility in how they manage their systems to meet program standards.  Over the past year, Shea says the number of authorized tag distributors has expanded, there is a far greater variety of official identification devices on the market, and several States are working to make health certificates more mobile for use in the field.

In his letter, Shea stresses that APHIS does not intend to immediately begin enforcing ADT rules. During March, APHIS plans to evaluate identification of livestock moved interstate and begin identifying individuals who are not meeting program requirements. “When we do so,” Shea says, “our local Veterinary Services Area District Director will contact them in writing to help guide them through the process for meeting the program requirements, including providing them with details on how to obtain the necessary official identification devices or movement documentation.” APHIS also plans to provide contact information and make personnel available to answer questions about the program from producers, veterinarians or others involved in the livestock-marketing chain.

As it currently stands, 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.

Read the full stakeholder letter from APHIS administrator Kevin Shea

Read more about the ADT rule from USDA/APHIS.