Traceability considered WLSB discusses state program
Casper – In light of the recent rule from APHIS concerning animal and disease traceability, conversations regarding a Wyoming identification and traceability program resurfaced during a meeting of the Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) on Aug. 19 and revealed a split in the opinions of board members.
Wyoming State Veterinarian Jim Logan briefly explained the APHIS rule, which requires official identification for all livestock moving interstate, including cattle, bison, horses, poultry, sheep, goats, swine and captive cervids.
“Not all of this is brand new,” said Logan. “A lot of this many states have been doing for quite a while.”
Logan continued, saying cattle and horse identification will be impacted, but he doesn’t anticipate much effect on the swine, poultry and sheep industries, as they already meet many of the requirements.
“It would behoove Wyoming to develop something we want and we can live with because I think it will affect marketability in the long term,” said Logan. “I believe it is essential to develop a Wyoming traceability program.”
An identification program to allow the traceability of a disease breakout is important, according to Logan.
“We are lucky in Wyoming to have a brand system, but, to be honest, brands cannot do it all,” said Logan. “If we can’t trace out the cause of disease, it could have an overall impact on marketability.”
Board member Pat Cullen of Wheatland sees an advantage in being able to trace back cattle to their owner in Wyoming to limit liability for disease after they are shipped to slaughter.
In general, the WLSB posed a number of questions and comments on a Wyoming traceability program. A primary concern of several board members is the implementation of a voluntary, rather than mandatory, program.
Donna Baldwin Hunt, a board member from Newcastle, said, “I don’t see any point in a voluntary program.”
“I have never like the word ‘voluntary’ in that bill,” agreed Logan. “I don’t see it being successful as a voluntary program if people don’t have to comply with the rule.”
WLSB Chairman Eric Barlow of Gillette sees potential funding obstacles with a voluntary program, and he said, “We will have to justify it when we ask for $500,000 for a voluntary program.”
However, other board members supported a voluntary program.
“I’ve never liked mandatory identification,” said Albert Sommers of Pinedale. “The reason I support a voluntary program is that other states will require ID. I would like to provide a program to Wyoming producers so they can ship cattle.”
Sommers also raised a question about the possibility about partnering with other states to develop a program that would be acceptable to those neighbors to which animals are commonly shipped.
“Other states will have requirements, and it makes no difference what we do,” added Logan. “We can, however, provide a program that helps people be in compliance.”
Logan also updated the group on legislation he was asked to develop regarding traceability and animal identification. The current draft is very similar to a bill drafted last year, with the exception of removal of the penalty clause and other minor changes.
Logan clarified that legislation is advantageous for a traceability program to receive a statutory appropriation. The cost of implementing the program is a concern, and financing that cost will likely require appropriations on top of grant funding.
Not only will a traceability program require additional tags, depending on the system implemented, but other technology might also be required. Some of the options for tags include a simple metal tag, the APHIS green tag or an RFID system.
“If we stay with a simple metal tag like the green tag system, that could be done very inexpensively and fast,” said Logan. “Recording will be a hang-up at the markets, though.”
“On the other hand, if we go to something like an RFID tag, it will likely be at least 50 times more expensive,” he continued. “If you want to develop a program to get things done rapidly, and at the speed of commerce, it will probably have be done with an RFID tag.”
“Reading those tags will be a huge expense to the producer,” said Baldwin-Hunt. “I see the tag as being a tiny part of the larger expense.”
Board member Joe Thomas of Meeteetse has already invested in an RFID system for his operation, and says it is an advantage to him.
“All my calves go to a program that requires identification, and I’ll reap the money back eventually,” said Thomas. “The breakdown comes when I have to send those numbers to the state. What database do we have to put the information in?”
Logan acknowledged Thomas’s concern and added his own.
“If we put all the numbers into a database, we will have the ability to retrieve the data,” said Logan. “If we can’t retrieve the information, why would we have a program?”
Though Logan realizes there will be a financial impact of maintaining a database, without that function, he deems the process a waste of time.
Because the cost of a traceability or identification program is potentially quite large, Baldwin-Hunt posed several questions, asking to compare the cost of a traceability program to the current traceback strategies used by the state. Currently, Baldwin-Hunt sees that cattle tagged with RFID, like Thomas’s, are no more traceable than those not tagged.
“If the point with which we’ll sell this program to the producers is traceability, I would like to see what is costs us now, including how many man-hours it costs,” said Baldwin-Hunt. “I’d like to see it proven how an identification program will help with traceability.”
Thomas, concerned with the far-reaching effects of instituting a traceability program, said, “I don’t think the producers will have a problem, but rather those on the end will.”
Recording or purchasing equipment to record movement of every animal into and out of markets will likely be costly, either in the form of manpower or dollars.
“We need to look at the potential for getting markets equipped to be able to handle the ID requirements,” commented Logan.
To fully understand the proposed APHIS rule, Sommers suggested a meeting or conference call with a representative of APHIS to answer the remaining questions of the WLSB.
With many options to consider and things to think about, the board agreed to postpone continued discussion on a Wyoming traceability program.
Barlow proposed a WLSB meeting and a working session to continue discussion on a Wyoming traceability program and to review the legislation drafted by Logan to take place in October or November of this year.
Comments on the APHIS rule will be accepted until Nov. 9.
Saige Albert is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.