“The landscape surrounding animal disease traceability has changed dramatically in the past decade, and producers across the nation recognize that a comprehensive system is the best protection against a devastating disease outbreak like foot-and-mouth disease,” says Greg Ibach, undersecretary for the USDA’s marketing and regulatory programs.

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  “We have a responsibility to these producers, and American agriculture as a whole, to make animal disease traceability what it should be — a modern system that tracks animals from birth to slaughter, using affordable technology that allows USDA to quickly trace sick and exposed animals to stop disease spread.”

  Related: Will a true cattle disease traceability program please stand up?

  plenty of questions remain concerning how or when the animal disease traceability (ADT) program can encompass more of the nation’s cattle population and provide enhanced disease surveillance and traceback.

  For their part, though, USDA officials filled in some of the gaps at September’s Livestock Traceability Forum hosted by the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA).

  ADT goals

  Related: Enhancement ideas for the Animal Disease Traceability framework

  Specifically, the agency announced four ADT goals starting in fiscal year 2019.

  First, advancing electronic sharing of data among federal and state animal health officials, veterinarians and industry. That includes sharing basic animal disease traceability data with the federal animal health events repository.

  Tied to that is using electronic ID tags (EID) for animals requiring individual identification, in order to make the transmission of data more efficient.

  “We believe the broad industry adoption of individual animal EID is critical to the advancement of traceability,” says Jack Shere, DVM, U.S. chief veterinary officer. “I think we’d all agree that electronic identification paves the way for more rapid and efficient and effective means for animal disease traceability.”

  Since ADT began, USDA provided free metal (“brite”) tags for cattle required to be identified for interstate movement (bulls and females older than 18 months). Those tags may not suffer much in terms of loss, but they’ve proven costly and ineffective. The cost comes with how much time and effort must be expended in trying to read the tags. Even when they can be read, human error means that too many times, the numbers are recorded incorrectly.

  So, USDA plans to phase out their use in ADT by the end of next year. Instead, USDA will pay a portion of the cost of electronic tags for producers.

  “We recognize that the cost of EID is one primary drawback for producers. Stakeholders have repeatedly told us that they need help in the transition to electronic ID,” Shere says.

  “Therefore, to assist with that transition, USDA will begin to cost-share for electronic ID. USDA is proposing a three-way cost share for the cost of electronic ID. USDA would cover one-third of the price of electronic tags. States could then elect to cover or split the remaining costs with veterinarians and producers. Under the three-way cost share, we anticipate the average cost to the cattle producer for an EID tag could be around 50 cents or less.”

  Shere added that USDA is working to make the process easier for producers to obtain premises identification numbers.

  “I think it’s important that producers participate in the cost because if you invest your own money, you’re more vested in trying to figure out how you can get benefit from that system,” Ibach says. “If you’re just given something, it doesn’t mean much to you in terms of trying to derive value or success out that system.”

  Technology race

  But USDA will not define what specific technology or technologies livestock industries choose to adopt.

  “We’re not going to define the technologies. Industry is going to work together to define those technologies, because we know that certain segments of different industries want to use different technologies — and need to use different technologies to move at the speed of commerce at their locations,” says Ibach.

  The EU endeavors to advocate Farm to Table movement on European Beef and Lamb.Food safety is ensured by EU legal system of animal Traceability and identification, allowing transparency along the supply chain.

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