USDA Proposes Mandatory Livestock Tracking System

Aug 17, 2011   

On August 9, 2011, the U.S. Department of Agricultures (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued a proposed rule to establish a mandatory livestock tracking system in order to improve the traceability of U.S. livestock. The proposed rule would require farmers and ranchers to affix unique identification numbers to animals transported interstate. The rule seeks to establish an effective, transparent animal disease traceability system without additional burden on farmers and ranchers. The tracking system would allow federal officials to quickly isolate diseased animals in the event of an outbreak.

In 2004, the USDA began developing a framework for animal disease traceability through the implementation of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). NAIS is a voluntary registration system established to trace the source of an animal disease within 48 hours. However, in 2009, the USDA estimated that only 36 percent of farmers and ranchers participated in the NAIS. In order to improve traceability, APHIS launched a series of efforts to assess the acceptance of an animal disease traceability system which lead to the development of the proposed rule.   

The proposed rule requires that livestock moved interstate be officially identified and accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection or other documentation, such as owner-shipper statements or brand certificates, unless exempt. Official forms of identification include tattoos, metal eartags, or brands with certain exceptions. The proposed rule also allows for States and tribes to develop alternative forms of identification. Livestock subject to the identification requirements include cattle, bison, sheep, goats, swine, horses, captive cervids, and poultry.

The USDA is confident that the new system will be able to trace the source of an animal disease within a few days of an outbreak. Advocates say the implementation of the new mandatory system would be a significant improvement compared to USDA bovine tuberculosis investigations averaging 150-days to trace the source of an outbreak.  

The USDA is currently seeking public comment on the proposed rule for a mandatory livestock tracking system. The deadline for submission is November 9, 2011. Fuerst Ittleman will continue to monitor the development of the USDA APHISs new proposed rule. For more information, please contact us at