WASHINGTON – The US Department of Agriculture announced a final rule to establish general regulations for improving traceability of US livestock moving interstate.

Unless specifically exempted, livestock moved interstate would 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, according to USDA. Beef cattle under 18 months of age are exempt from the official identification requirement, unless they are moved interstate for shows, exhibitions, rodeos, or recreational events. USDA said specific traceability requirements for this livestock category will be addressed in separate rulemaking.

“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 US livestock businesses,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “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.

“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,” Vilsack concluded.

USDA said the final rule has several differences from the proposed rule issued in August 2011. These include:

• Accepting the use of brands, tattoos and brand registration as official identification when accepted by the shipping and receiving States or Tribes;

• 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 or Tribes;

• Clarifying that all livestock moved interstate to a custom slaughter facility are exempt from the regulations; and 

• Exempting chicks moved interstate from a hatchery from the official identification requirements.