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October 01, 2012   Email to Friend 

New Tagging System Helps Trace Cattle Ownership
Melissa Martin

A new rule requiring all cattle 18 months old and older in Alabama to be tagged with official USDA identification tags when animals change ownership began Sept. 18. The new requirement is the state’s response to federal Animal Disease Traceability regulations established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries board unanimously approved the statewide Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) Rule during an Aug. 14 meeting.

Alabama Farmers Federation Beef Division Director Nate Jaeger said the unanimous approval was good news for the state’s beef farmers.

“Generally speaking, our farmer members are wary of additional government regulations,” said Jaeger. “However, this opportunity allowed them to have a significant voice in the rule-making process and ensures they have rules everyone can live with. Adopting the Animal Disease Traceability rule protects their herds and, ultimately, their bottom line.”

Alabama’s State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Frazier developed the proposed rule in 2011, receiving input from members of the Alabama Farmers Federation’s State Beef Committee. Frazier said animal disease traceability has been discussed for years, and as USDA officials move toward implementing a federal program, Alabama’s rule illustrates a proactive lead on behalf of the state’s beef farmers.

“As the state veterinarian, I enjoy a unique relationship with industry producers regarding the issue of disease traceability,” said Frazier. “Our industry partners’ support of this rule demonstrates the forward-thinking ability of our producers.”

The passage of this rule is an important step for farmers and industry officials alike, he said.

“Not only does it establish an animal disease traceability system that will allow us to quickly respond and recover from a potential disease outbreak, but it also allows Alabama farmers to take advantage of export markets,” he added.

Alabama Cattlemen’s Association President Donna Jo Curtis echoed Frazier’s remarks, noting the strong relationship was important in developing the rule.

“We appreciate Dr. Frazier working with cattle producers, beef organizations and markets to get input on this important rule,” said Curtis. “We look forward to being a part of the education process.”

The rule exempts feeder cattle and cull cows and bulls going directly to slaughter. Additional exceptions accommodate cattle owners farming in or near multiple states, allowing them to maintain business continuity. This rule requires all bison, dairy animals and all exhibition cattle be tagged regardless of age or destination.

Jaeger said extensive educational programs estimated to last nine-to-12 months will precede any enforcement of the new identification rule.

“The Alabama Farmers Federation will work with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and the Department of Agriculture and Industries to educate farmers about what is involved with the rule,” said Jaeger. “Because leaders of our organization helped develop the regulations, they know it will be in accordance with Federation policy that supports such a rule ‘without undue or excessive cost to farmers.’ This is a testament to what a proper relationship between industry and government should be.”

Cattle-specific guidelines of the rule would allow approved tagging sites (possibly livestock markets) to distribute and apply official identification tags. Those sites would be required to retain records of those disbursements for five years. Official identification tags could also be assigned and allocated by the Alabama Department of Agriculture directly to farmers, and each tag will have unique numbers to ensure traceability.

USDA-approved identification devices includes metal “Brite” tags, which are available for free from the state veterinarian’s office; as well as panel tags and radio frequency ear (RFID) tags, which vary in cost. Visit aphis.usda.gov to view a list of official tag companies. For information about ADT, contact Frazier at (334) 240-7253 or stvet@agi.alabama.gov.

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