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APHIS announces final traceability rule

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Washington, D.C. – On Dec. 20, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced a final rule establishing regulations for improving the traceability of livestock moving interstate.

While the rule has not yet been published in the Federal Register, many agriculture groups across the country say the rule is a good one, providing flexibility and addressing the U.S.’s current gap in disease response efforts.

“All sexually intact cattle and bison 18 months of age and older that move interstate will be required to have an official identification,” explains Wyoming State Veterinarian Jim Logan. “The rule doesn’t look too bad for Wyoming.”

Logan notes that the 145-page rule is industry friendly, with the actual meat in pages 125 through 145 of the posted document.

What it does

In short, there are four classes of cattle and bison that will be required to have an official identification: sexually intact cattle and bison 18 months of age and older; female dairy cattle regardless of age and all dairy males born after the rule takes effect; all cattle and bison used for rodeo and recreational events; and all cattle and bison used for shows and exhibitions.

Cattle and bison moving within a state are not affected by this rule, says Logan, noting, “In state movement is up to each state and Wyoming does have some ID requirements in place. This rule pertains to animals moving across a state line.”

Cull cows, bred cows and bred heifers, as well as bulls moving interstate, will all require identification under the new rule. 

“There are a lot of ways that the official identification is defined,” Logan adds. “We already have our green Wyoming tag which has been designated as official ID. Also, our new orange Brucellosis RFID Vaccination tags, traditional orange metal vaccination tags, silver ‘brite’ APHIS tags and other 840 tags are all acceptable individual identification for interstate movement.”

“In addition, the system that we already use to distribute our tags to producers and veterinarians and record that information in our database at the Wyoming Livestock Board office will enable us to be in compliance with the rules,” Logan comments.

Logan notes that there are also other acceptable tags, including any 840 tags.

“I don’t see any huge change from what Wyoming is already requiring, except that bulls will have to be identified,” Logan explains. “The program we have in place, with our green tags and vaccination tags, means we are set to go.”


There are also several classes of animals that are exempt from the rule. Those exempt classes include steers and spayed heifers, as well as sexually intact cattle and bison less than 18 months of age.

However, Logan notes, “The rule also says that at some future date, steers, spayed heifers and sexually intact cattle less than 18 months of age may require identification and will be addressed in separate rule making.”

APHIS has not identified a timeline in which rules regarding all cattle will be developed.

“There are also situations where group lot identification will be sufficient,” Logan also says. “In those situations where cattle are going directly to slaughter group lot identification is acceptable.”


“The rule specifically states that brands will be considered as official identification, but there are caveats to that statement,” says Logan, noting that other states must agree that brands are sufficient. “I’ve polled other states around Wyoming, and I don’t think there is going to be any state that will accept the brand alone as official identification.”

While the federal rule allows for use of brands, Logan explains that each state is allowed to establish their own rules for importation, and many states already do require official eartags.

“People will have to get used to the fact that language supporting brands is in the federal rule, but the bottom line is that the brand by itself is going to be accepted in only a very few situations,” he adds. 

Health certificates

The one major change that Logan sees in the rule regards health certificates. Each health certificate will be required to have all of the individual official identification recorded.

“People will have to run cattle through a chute to collect identification prior to their veterinarian arriving so the vet can apply it to the health certificate,” Logan says. 

The rule also allows for states to develop a state form to record identification, which may be done by the producer.

“It will be more burdensome,” Logan adds. “The health certificate isn’t going to be as easy as calling the vet and asking them to spend half an hour to look at cattle.”

Regardless, Logan says he doesn’t think the rule will impact Wyoming producers too much, aside from the health certificate changes. 

“A lot of states already have these requirements, and some of them have had for several years,” he notes. “We have to do a lot of this already.”

Industry reactions

United States Cattlemen’s Association Animal Health Committee Chairman, Chuck Kiker of Beaumont, Texas said he is pleased that the plan accepts the use of brands, tattoos and brand registration as official identification when accepted by shipping and receiving states or tribes. 

“This rule provides individual states and tribes with a remarkable amount of flexibility. While the final rule addresses significant gaps in the nation’s overall disease response efforts, under this plan states and tribes will be able to design systems for tracing animals that best fits their needs. We congratulate USDA APHIS for its work,” added Kiker. “This is a prime example of what can happen when industry groups come together to work in a positive manner with a regulating agency like USDA.”

“With the final rule announced today, the United States now has a flexible, effective animal disease traceability system for livestock moving interstate, without undue burdens for ranchers and U.S. livestock businesses,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Dec. 20. “The final rule meets the diverse needs of the countryside where states and tribes can develop systems for tracking animals that work best for them and their producers, while addressing any gaps in our overall disease response efforts.

“The rule will take effect 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register,” says Logan. “It will probably take effect in the first part to the middle of March.”

APHIS originally planned to publish the rule on Dec. 28, but did not achieve that goal.

For more information about the USDA APHIS Traceability Rule, visit Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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