New federal rule affects interstate cattle movement

Posted: Apr. 9, 2013 9:46 am Updated: Apr. 23, 2013 11:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

A Quincy area cattle producer decides on a Friday afternoon to sell two cows that no longer fit his breeding program.

He wants to load up the cattle the following Monday to head to the F&T Livestock Market in Palmrya, Mo., but new federal requirements could push back his plans by a week or more.

Dr. Bill Koch with Western Illinois Veterinary Clinic tells the story to illustrate the potential impact of the new U.S. Department of Agriculture animal disease traceability rule requiring official identification and a certificate of veterinary inspection before some animals move across state lines.

"It's going to be a headache," Koch said. "We might end up keeping more bred cows and service bulls here in the state and stay with local sale barns rather than go through the hassle."

Jim Browning, who owns F&T with his two brothers, said he's not sure yet how much the new rule that went into effect last month will impact cattle coming from Illinois or Iowa.

"Right now we're just kind of testing the water to see how it's going to work out," Browning said. "With us right here on the border, there's always different rules to follow going to different states."

The new rule applies to sexually intact beef cattle 18 months of age or older, any cattle going to shows or exhibition and any dairy cattle.

USDA touts the rule as a way to improve traceability -- or knowing where diseased and at-risk animals are, where they've been and when -- not a second attempt at a national animal identification system.

Accurate traceability information will be more readily available, enabling USDA to shorten investigation timelines, more quickly control the spread of certain disease and reduce the number of quarantined or disposed of animals -- making animal disease outbreaks less costly for producers and helping interstate animal movement continue.

"From everything I've read concerning this, there's not going to be a broadened animal identification system that will be mandated and personal records are not going to be held in a central location," said Zac Erwin, livestock specialist with University of Missouri Extension-Lewis County. "The only time these records come into play is if there is an animal disease outbreak ... to make sure we can cut down on response times."

Transporting beef cattle under 18 months of age state-to-state won't be a problem, but the rule adds another layer of paperwork for moving other animals.

"You're going to see more of the paperwork burden fall on sale barns and vets than you will producers," Erwin said. "The producers' responsibility will be to work closely with their vets when looking at moving cattle to comply with regulations no matter where the state of destination is."

Despite the new requirement, Erwin doesn't expect it will discourage people from showing cattle.

"We have needed certificates of vet inspections for several years for cattle crossing state lines for expo purposes," Erwin said. "Where the new part comes into effect is there needs to be a unique individual ID tag. Sometimes brands might be able to work. Sometimes ear tattoos might work. It's going to be a state to state decision on allowable forms of ID."