Traceability implementation continues in Wyo
Nearly one year after USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) rule was published in the Federal Register, Wyoming’s auction markets continue to tackle the challenges associated with implementing the rule.
“We’ve already had to make these changes because of the standards imposed on us,” says Stacy Newby, owner of Worland Livestock Auction. “We don’t have a choice.”
Shawn Madden, co-owner of Torrington Livestock Auction, adds, “This rule creates an enormous amount of extra work for our crews. I see the solution in the use of technology.”
Through the chute
Newby notes that the measure requires more labor in running cattle through the chutes a second time to gather the identification from each animal, making it more costly.
“After our sale, we figure where the cattle are going, put them through the chute again to get identification numbers,” she explains. “It is dark, most of the time, and difficult to get the numbers off the animals’ metal id tags.”
Madden adds that crews at Torrington have worked to 3 a.m. or later to process cattle and obtain the identification information necessary for out of state shipment under the current system.
“It is also stressful on the animal and increases the chances of injury,” Newby says.
As a result of the additional labor, auction market owners note that increased costs are incurred with the rule.
“We’re a small market, and it impacts us, so I can only imagine how it affects the larger markets,” say Jay Godley of Buffalo Livestock Auction. “There is a lot of labor involved. On a cold night when it is below zero with the wind blowing, that isn’t fun.”
Newby adds that it costs three to five dollars more to run cattle through the chutes and be processed by a veterinarian again.
“We’ve passed on some of the increased costs,” Godley comments. “There are other options, like the wands to read electronic id tags, but that equipment costs, too.”
Equipment costs, however, are prohibitive, and as a small businesses, the markets are unable to purchase the expensive equipment.
“Either way, this rule is taking more money from the producer’s pockets, the buyer’s pocket or our pocket,” Newby said. “That is money that producers are not getting per head.”
Godley adds that the process also opens the door for increased error.
“When we physically have to ID more animals, we have to run them through the chute, so there is potential for error,” he explains. “We have one person reading the tag and another person writing it down. Then the vet has to transpose it on to the health forms.”
Godley adds, “There is a lot of possibility for mistakes.”
With a system that may be riddled with mistakes, Godley questions whether goals of the rule are being accomplished.
Godley also questions whether the individual identification currently improves the system.
“As far as my understanding goes, the information gathered goes to the state of Wyoming where it is stored in boxes,” he says. “It seems like we are doing a lot of work, and it seems like a futile effort. I do not believe a 48-hour trace back could be accomplished under the current system. A lot of data is being collected with no way to access it other than searching through boxes of old health papers and brand records.”
Each of the markets also addressed the Wyoming Livestock Board’s (WLSB) recent decision to not pursue federal grant funding to help comply with the rule.
“The WLSB members said they were concerned with taking government money,” Newby noted. “No sale barn has enough money laying around to purchase all the new equipment we need to comply more easily.”
Market owners continue that they are unsure whether the Board members have taken into account the opinions and needs of livestock markets in Wyoming.
“I find it very frustrating,” Newby adds.
Madden also notes that, at this point, he is looking for an option moving forward.
“I don’t know if the technology that may have been purchased using the grant money is the answer or not because I’ve never seen it work before, but what we are doing now isn’t the answer,” Madden says. “It takes too much time, man power and running cows through the chutes to work for long.”
He further notes, “I’m in the mood to try something. If we aren’t going to use federal grant money, what are we going to do? No plan is not a good plan.”
Madden adds that the unfunded federal mandate could be funded using federal grant dollars, and he didn’t understand concerns of the WLSB in not attempting to secure funding.
“The technology is there,” Madden comments. “I’m interested to see how we can apply it to what we are doing, and I’d appreciate the opportunity to see if it would fly. I’m very disappointed that we aren’t going to seek grant funding to try something.”
Proactive or reactive
Newby says that the mandate appeared before Wyoming had a chance to proactively address identification and traceability, and she was frustrated that actions were not implemented prior to the rule’s appearance.
“I would like to see Wyoming be progressive, get in line and work out the bugs in a system so other states want to try to replicate what we have done,” she says. “Why are we sitting back and waiting for the federal government to tell us what to do?”
“If the state of Wyoming was a little ahead of the game, we could try methods that would work and get the kinks out of a system,” Godley adds. “It would be advantageous to us, instead of waiting for the federal government to say how it will be. If the federal government could see something that works and have a model in Wyoming, it would be advantageous for everyone involved.”
This article is the first in a series focused on the impacts of the Animal Disease Traceability Rule across all segments of Wyoming’s agriculture industry. Look for the next segment on impacts to veterinarians in the coming weeks.
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.