Moving livestock from state to state? Here’s what you need to know about animal identification


WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a final rule Dec. 20 establishing general regulations for improving the traceability of U.S. livestock moving interstate.

Under the final rule, unless specifically exempted, livestock moved interstate have to be officially identified and accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection or other documentation, such as owner-shipper statements or brand certificates.

An official ID number can include the national uniform eartag (typically metal eartags such as the silver USDA tag); or an animal identification number (AIN); location-based number (ex. sheep scrapie tags).

The USDA said it will provide the low-cost metal eartag free to farmers as long as funds are available.

If you do not move animals outside your state, you will not be affected.

‘We listened’

After considering the public comments received, the final rule has several differences from the proposed rule issued in August 2011.

“Over the past several years, USDA has listened carefully to America’s farmers and ranchers, working collaboratively to establish a system of tools and safeguards that will help us target when and where animal diseases occur, and help us respond quickly,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Revisions include:

— Accepting the use of brands, tattoos and brand registration as official identification when accepted by the shipping and receiving states;

— Permanently maintaining the use of backtags as an alternative to official eartags for cattle and bison moved directly to slaughter;

— Accepting movement documentation other than an Interstate Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (ICVI) for all ages and classes of cattle when accepted by the shipping and receiving states;

— Clarifying that all livestock moved interstate to a custom slaughter facility are exempt from the regulations (that means if you’re shopping your animals to a slaughterhouse in another state, you’re exempt);

— Exempting chicks moved interstate from a hatchery from the official identification requirements;

Beef cattle under 18 months of age, unless they are moved interstate for shows, exhibitions, rodeos, or recreational events, are exempt from the official identification requirement in this rule.


In 2006, USDA initiated the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). This voluntary program asked producers to register their premises and identify their animals with a national animal tracking database.

After seeing low enrollment, the department tried to listen to the issues and concerns that were preventing widespread acceptance of NAIS in the livestock community.

Producers raised several serious concerns about the protection of proprietary information through premise registration and the program’s overall lack of flexibility. As a result, NAIS was never fully implemented and eventually discontinued.


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