USDA Rule Strengthens Livestock Disease Traceability

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said it will produce "a flexible, effective animal disease traceability system for livestock moving interstate, without undue burdens for ranchers and U.S. livestock businesses."

A final rule from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will made it easier to trace diseases such as brucellosis and avian influenza in livestock, according to the agency's recent news releases about it. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, a USDA unit, announced the rule and said it will be published in the Federal Register in early January 2013.

"With the final rule announced today, the United States now has a flexible, effective animal disease traceability system for livestock moving interstate, without undue burdens for ranchers and U.S. livestock businesses," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Dec. 20. "The final rule meets the diverse needs of the countryside where states and tribes can develop systems for tracking animals that work best for them and their producers, while addressing any gaps in our overall disease response efforts. Over the past several years, USDA has listened carefully to America's farmers and ranchers, working collaboratively to establish a system of tools and safeguards that will help us target when and where animal diseases occur and help us respond quickly."

Unless specifically exempted, livestock moved interstate would have to be officially identified and accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection or other documentation, such as owner-shipper statements or brand certificates. USDA said the final rule has several differences from the proposed rule issued in August 2011, including:

  • Accepting the use of brands, tattoos, and brand registration as official identification when accepted by the shipping and receiving states or tribes
  • Permanently maintaining the use of backtags as an alternative to official eartags for cattle and bison moved directly to slaughter
  • Accepting movement documentation other than an Interstate Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (ICVI) for all ages and classes of cattle when accepted by the shipping and receiving states or tribes
  • Clarifying that all livestock moved interstate to a custom slaughter facility are exempt from the regulations
  • Exempting chicks moved interstate from a hatchery from the official identification requirements

Beef cattle under 18 months of age, unless they are moved interstate for shows, exhibitions, rodeos, or recreational events, are exempt from the official identification requirement, and traceability requirements for them will be handled in a separate rulemaking, according to the agency's release.

For more information about the rule, visit

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