Electronic registration of cattle sales will be available in Washington State as of January 1, 2016, according to a new state law signed by the governor.

The state’s Department of Agriculture announced last December that it would be upgrading the computer tracking system and eliminating an exemption that allowed herds selling less than 15 milking cows at a time not to be inspected. With the upgrades and elimination of the major loophole, the industry worked with the Agriculture Department to create an electronic solution for dairy animals.

Now, the new law allows the transfer to be done on an electronic, web-based, system that will cost less than the current brand inspection. Brand inspections will still be available to those who choose not to opt for the electronic system, but there will no longer be an exemption for reporting transfer of ownership after January 1.

Electronic system only an idea so far

However, producers and the Washington Agriculture Department do not yet know what the new system might look like.

“Producers will not have the pay the higher inspection fee, won’t have to pay for the mileage, and won’t have to pay for the time – which in some places could reach quite a bit more than others due to the amount of travel,” Dan Wood, executive director of the Washington State Dairy Federation (WSDF), said in an interview with Dairy Herd Management on Monday.

“We’re going to be racing the clock to get this thing up by January 1, but I’m confident we can do it,” Wood added. “The timeline looks pretty good.”

Everything in the new law was supported by the WSDF, Wood said. He expects that with a successful launch, other species will follow.

“We’re really setting up a model, once we demonstrate the value and ease of use for dairy, that others may want it opened up for more broad access,” Wood explained.

Washington State was affected to the tune of $1 billion with the Christmas Eve 2013 bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) detection there, shutting off export markets for the state and country for several years.

While Wood said the BSE example is often pointed to, it is not the reason Washington pushed forward with the new rules. Dairy animals are already usually identified to the individual animal more than other species, he noted, and the state was trying to be proactive on any future needs.