When it comes to a national livestock identification system, the United States is now the odd man out among the major meat exporters. Australia, New Zealand, the European Union (EU) and others have had national ID programs for many years. Canada has had a national program for cattle and bison in place for 10 years.
These programs are not just for tracing disease, but to address any concerns from importers.
The Americans, who do not rely as much on meat exports as the others, have been slow to implement national livestock ID. But some elements of a program are in place, a U. S. official told the International Livestock Identification Association annual meeting in Calgary last month.
Jere L. Dick, an associate deputy administrator with the veterinary service of the USDA, said there is a patchwork of ID programs administered for various purposes by the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), purebred groups and State agencies, as well as a brand inspection program.
“We have a lot of history in identification going back almost 90 years, but we are also losing our ability to trace livestock,” Dick told the meeting.
To address the shortcomings the USDA several years ago planned a National Animal Identification System. One of the first steps was premise identification, but it was voluntary. But earlier this year, after strong opposition
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from some producer groups, the USDA decided to abandon the plan and start over. “We needed a system that works, so we decided to listen to what producers and stakeholders would support,” Dick said.
After extensive dialogue with the industry, the USDA put forward a new proposal called the Animal Disease Traceability Framework. It has goals to be flexible and co-ordinated and empowers States, Tribal Nations and producers to use the system. “But that’s easier said than done; this involves information exchange,” Dick said.
The new proposal involves all livestock and poultry, but cattle are a priority. The sheep, hog and poultry industries are moving forward with the program. Discussions are ongoing with the stakeholders in the cattle industry. The program includes such features as all livestock moving across state lines must have official ID and a certificate of veterinary inspection, and the system will be mandatory.
Dick said the brand inspection system already in place will aid this new traceability program. “Ten years ago the brand-inspection folks were the first at the table,” he said.
The system will also have to continually be evaluated and benchmarks established. “Success or failure will have to be measured,” Dick said.
One sticky point is compliance for an industry which sees some sectors not too enthusiastic about what they perceive as government intrusion and more costs.”We are asking the cattle industry what to do and we realize that more work needs to be done,” Dick said.
In reference to ID systems in place in other countries he said, “We are committed to coordinating our proposed system with our neighbours.”
“We have a lot of
history in identification going back almost 90 years, but we are also losing our ability to trace livestock.”
JERE L. DICK
VETERINARY SERVICE, USDA