On December 20, 2012, The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a final rule establishing general regulations for improving the traceability of U.S. livestock moving interstate.  Having a traceability system in place would allow the United States to track animal disease more quickly and efficiently, thereby minimizing not only the spread of disease but also the trade impacts an outbreak may have. 

     “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,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “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.” 

     Basically, cattle moving from one state to another state will need to be 1) officially identified and 2) accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection (ICVI) or certain other documentation such as owner-shipper statements or brand certificates.  Specifically exempted are all cattle moving interstate directly to a custom slaughter facility.  For more specific details about the regulation and how it will affect producers, visit www.aphis.usda.gov/traceability.  Federally accredited veterinarians will feel the most impact as they will have to be knowledgeable of and comply with the new regulations or face penalties at the federal level.

Who needs “official identification” when moving interstate?

Beginning March 11, 2013, all cattle and bison listed below are subject to official identification requirements when moving interstate:

-All sexually intact cattle and bison 18 months of age or over;

All female dairy cattle of any age and all dairy males born after March 11, 2013; Specifically, dairy cattle are defined as all cattle, regardless of age or sex or current use, that are of a breed(s) used to produce milk or other dairy products for human consumption, including, but not limited to, Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Holstein, Jersey, Guernsey, Milking Shorthorn, and Red and Whites.

- Cattle and bison of any age used for rodeo or recreational events; and

-Cattle and bison of any age used for shows or exhibitions.

Cattle moving interstate would be exempt from the official identification requirement when:

-The cattle are beef cattle under 18 months of age unless they are moved interstate for shows, exhibitions, rodeos, or recreational events.

-The cattle are moved as a commuter herd (a herd of cattle moved interstate directly between two premises without change of ownership) with a copy of the commuter herd agreement.

-The cattle are moved directly from a location in one State through another State to a second location in the original State.

-The cattle are moved directly to an “approved tagging site” if they are officially identified before commingling with cattle and bison from other premises.  Commingling can occur if other practices are used such as back tags that will ensure the identity of the animal’s consignor is accurately maintained until tagging takes place.  An “approved tagging site”, authorized by APHIS, State, or Tribal animal health officials, is a place where livestock may be officially identified on behalf of their owner (or the person in possession, care, or control of the animals) when they are brought to the premises.  Approved livestock facilities are not required to be tagging sites-If they elect not to be an approved tagging site, they cannot accept cattle that are not officially identified.

-Back tags may be used as an alternative to official eartags for cattle and bison moved directly to slaughter but the animals must be slaughtered within 3 days of their movement to a slaughter plant.

What is considered “official identification”?

  1. An official USDA eartag (pictures and brief descriptions are below);
  2. An alternate form of individual identification, including but not limited to brands, tattoos, and breed registry certificates.  These may be used but only if agreed on by animal health officials in the States or Tribes involved in the movement.
  3. Group/lot identification when a group/lot identification number (GIN) is applicable.  The group/lot identification number (GIN) provides a means of identifying groups of animals when individual animal identification is not required.  In this final rule, the GIN is the identification number used to uniquely identify a‘‘unit of animals’’ of the same species that is managed together as one group throughout the preharvest production chain. When a GIN is used, it must be recorded on documents accompanying the animals; it would not, however, be necessary to have the GIN attached to each animal.

USDA Official Eartags: 

Official Vaccination Eartag (Brucellosis)-Restricted for use with bovine and bison calfhood brucellosis vaccination.  These are only available to federally accredited veterinarians.

Official Vaccination Eartag (Brucellosis)

National Uniform Eartagging System (NUES) Tags

‐    Commonly referred to as “Silver” or “Brite” tags.

‐    These have historically been used for disease testing and interstate movement by veterinarians but   VS Memorandum 578.12 revised March 15, 2011 now allows distribution to producers through State and Tribal authorities.

-    New to the final rule is the addition of a new definition of “Official Eartag Shield”.  States are now allowed to use their postal abbreviation within the US Route shield in lieu of “US”.

National Uniform Eartagging System (NUES) Tags

Animal identification number (AIN) “840” Tags

‐ Provided directly to producers from manufacturers (or their distributors), or to producers through an accredited veterinarian or an animal health official.

-Various sizes, shapes, colors are available; some are visual only or with variable frequency RFID technology. AIN tags may be imprinted with additional information for program identity, e.g., age, source programs.  However, manufacturer coded AINs (those with numbers that do not begin with 840) are to be phased out over the next 2 years but are still considered official if applied before March 11, 2015.

 Animal identification number (AIN) “840” Tags

The Interstate Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (ICVI)

An ICVI is intended to provide a standardized, official document issued by a Federal, State, Tribal, or accredited veterinarian at the location from which the animals are shipped.  The person directly responsible for animals leaving a premise is responsible for securing the ICVI or other interstate movement document and making sure it accompanies the cattle.  An ICVI must list the following elements:

  1. The animal species covered;
  2. The number of animals covered;
  3. Address they are loaded (origin);
  4. Address of destination;
  5. Names of the consignee and consigner and their respective addresses if different from the origin and destination addresses;
  6. The official identification situation of this load.  Either:

a.   The official identification must be listed for each animal that is required to be officially identified. All sexually intact dairy cattle (male or female) , all sexually intact beef cattle over 18 months of age, and all cattle used for rodeo, exhibition, or recreation must be listed individually on the certificate.

b.    If the animals are not required to have official identification, the ICVI must state the exemption.  For example, if moving a truckload of feeder steers under 18 months of age interstate, the ICVI must state that this class of cattle is exempt from official identification requirements.

c.    In some instances, the animals are required to be officially identified but each individual number does not have to be listed on the certificate. However, the ICVI must state that all animals covered by the certificate actually are officially identified. The ICVI would include a statement such as, "40 Holstein steers all officially identified with individual official eartags," or, "40 mixed steers and heifers officially identified with Group/Lot identification number _______."   Individuallisting of ID numbers is not required for cattle in any of these three categories: 

         i.    Cattle that are moved directly from a livestock facility to a slaughter facility.

         ii.    Beef cattle that are sexually intact and under 18 months of age as long as they are not used for show or recreation.

         iii.    Steers and spayed heifers of any age.


Are there any exemptions to the requirement that cattle must be accompanied by an ICVI?

There are exemptions to the requirement for an ICVI although most require some type of alternate documentation in lieu of an ICVI to accompany the cattle.  Listed below are the documentation requirements that will be accepted and under what circumstances they can be used:

  1. “Owner-shipper statement”-  This is a statement signed by the owner or shipper of the livestock stating the origin, destination, number of animals, species, the names and addresses of the owner and shipper, and the identification of each animal as required by regulations.
    a.  Cattle are moved directly from the farm to a recognized slaughtering establishment or through an approved livestock facility that handles “for slaughter only” animals then to the slaughtering establishment.  These cattle must be accompanied by an owner-shipper statement.
    b.   Cattle are moved directly from the farm to an approved livestock facility with an owner-shipper statement and do not move interstate from that facility without an ICVI.
  2. “Commuter herd agreement” - This is an agreement between the herd owner and animal health officials regarding movement of cattle between two premises he operates in two different states.

          a. Cattle can be moved as a commuter herd with a copy of the commuter herd agreement

   3.   Alternative documentation

          a.Cattle may be moved between shipping and receiving states with documentation other than an ICVI as agreed on by the animal health officials in the shipping and receiving states.  An example of this is a brand inspection certificate.

    4.  No documentation is necessary.

         a.Cattle are moved from the farm of origin for veterinary medical attention and returned to the farm without change of ownership.

         b.Cattle are moved directly from one state through another state and back to the original state.

     Why is traceability important?  The specific characteristics of a disease lead to differences in the way they are investigated. Knowing the history of the location of the animal is critical when dealing with a highly contagious disease, in particular its prior contacts with other animals. Complete information can help animal health officials narrow down the number of herds tested.  However, when information is limited or vague, the testing of herds is expanded to ensure all possible herds are included. If the herd owner cannot be located for an animal of concern, the herds of all potential suppliers of the subject animal must be tested. Numbers of animals needing to be tested can rapidly multiply as all potential sources are considered. Time is also a critical factor in a disease investigation. The more time it takes, the more herds and animals become infected or exposed, the more man-hours are needed to respond.  Without traceability, the industry ultimately suffers from the loss or delay of sales and potential market share. 

     In summary, a good rule of thumb to remember is adult breeding cattle, all dairy cattle, and animals used for recreation or exhibition that are moved interstate warrant inspection which must be documented on an ICVI along with their official individual identification.  These animals are at a higher risk for exposure and transmission of disease because of their contact with other livestock and their longevity.  Younger beef animals, steers and spayed heifers, and animals moving directly to slaughter have less stringent regulations because they generally will have short lifespans.  Work with your federally accredited veterinarian if you will be moving any cattle interstate as he or she will know what is needed for legal transportation.  This contact must be made in a timely manner in order to complete all testing and paperwork required by the state of destination before the animals are scheduled to move.

Author:  Michelle Arnold, DVM

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