USDA Catching Up to NMPF on Animal Disease Traceability

NMPF underscored its longstanding commitment to animal traceability to combat disease outbreaks while opposing a change to the definition of “dairy cattle” in comments it submitted  April 19to the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) on the Use of Electronic Identification Eartags as Official Identification in Cattle and Bison (Docket No. APHIS–2021–0020).

USDA-APHIS is proposing to amend its animal disease traceability regulations to require that eartags be both visually and electronically readable to be recognized for use as official eartags for interstate movement of cattle and bison covered under the regulations. The agency also proposed changes to the definition of “dairy cattle” to include cross-bred dairy beef animals.

The proposed changes are intended to enhance the ability of tribal, state and federal officials, private veterinarians, and livestock producers to quickly respond to high-impact diseases currently existing in the United States, as well as foreign animal diseases that threaten the viability of the U.S. cattle and bison industries.

NMPF comments focused on the USDA-APHIS alignment with the longstanding NMPF policy supporting mandatory animal identification with radio frequency identification device (RFID) tags for dairy cattle. The USDA-APHIS requirement for eartags to be electronically readable comports with NMPF’s animal identification policy which is nearly two decades old.

NMPF in its comments opposed the APHIS proposed change to the definition of “dairy cattle” to include cross-bred dairy beef animals. APHIS contended that cross-bred dairy-beef animals, which are raised solely for meat and not for milk, represent increased risks of disease transmission and thus the animal disease traceability requirements should be the same as for dairy cattle. However, APHIS did not present data to indicate an increased risk of disease transmission and simply asserted that being raised and managed on a dairy farm result in increased risk. Many dairy farms also raise other livestock commercially, such as swine and poultry, yet USDA-APHIS did not propose to have similar disease traceability requirements for those animals. NMPF suggested these crossbred dairy-beef animals should have the same requirements as other beef cattle.