Kentucky Ag News

State vet: Kentucky is ready for new traceability regulations


By CHRIS ALDRIDGE, Kentucky Agricultural News

FRANKFORT, Ky. - State Veterinarian Dr. Robert Stout calls Kentucky the crossroads for the movement of cattle in the Southeast.


A lot of cattle come through here headed west, Stout said, noting Kentucky has 37 stockyards, the largest livestock market system east of the Mississippi River.

So Kentucky, in particular, will be affected by new animal disease traceability (ADT) regulations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding interstate movement of cattle that took effect March 11.

Beginning on the effective date of the final rule, the official identification requirements will apply to:

  • All sexually intact cattle and bison 18 months of age or over,
  • dairy cattle of any age,
  • cattle and bison of any age used for rodeo or recreational events, and
  • cattle and bison used for shows or exhibitions.


Unless specifically exempted, livestock moved interstate will have to be officially identified and accompanied by an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection or other documentation. Brands, tattoos, and brand registration may be accepted as official ID when agreed upon by the shipping or receiving state animal health officials. The use of backtags for cattle and bison moved directly to slaughter will be maintained permanently.

The only animals exempt from the ADT regulations are young beef feeder cattle under 18 months of age. They will be addressed specifically in future regulations.

The origin of the new regulations can be traced back a decade to the industry-driven U.S. Animal Identification Plan. That morphed into the ambitious National Animal Identification System (NAIS), which asked that all premises on which farm animals live be assigned an ID number.

It [NAIS] was a very aggressive, voluntary system that caused a lot of stir within the industry, pro and con, Stout said. In the end, the cons won.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture responded by conducting a series of listening sessions on animal traceability including one in Louisville on May 22, 2009, attended by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack before the final ADT rule was announced in December.

It applies only to interstate movement of animals, Stout explained. Its a bookend system, meaning it starts at the place where a tag is applied, usually a farm or livestock market, and ends at the slaughter plant, where the tag is retired.

Theres some flexibility for each state, he added. Movements in between the bookends are the responsibility of the states to maintain.

Although the NAIS failed, Stout sensed that change was coming and pun intended took the bull by the horns. Since Jan. 5, 2011, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture has required identification tags to be attached to all eligible cattle that move through livestock markets in the Commonwealth.

We were being proactive, Stout said of his decision require ID tags for all cattle of breeding age (over 18 months) that were moving back to the farm through livestock markets. We needed to do it, and I knew it [ADT] was coming.

KDA regulations already require the tagging of livestock, but Kentucky stopped the practice in 2001 after it was no longer required to test cattle for brucellosis.

We should never have stopped tagging, Stout said. So we went to our livestock markets and starting doing it before it became mandatory.

Kentucky tagged 63,109 cattle in 2011, then tagged 73,187 in 2012, making the total 136,296 during the first two years of the KDAs tagging program. Kentucky is off to a good start in 2013 with 6,577 cattle tagged in January.

Its been highly successful, Stout said of Kentuckys renewed tagging program. Everybodys got on board.

The KDA enters all certificates of veterinary inspections that it receives into a database. Livestock records are also kept by both markets and dealers. These data are essential to KDAs traceability success.

Our staff has been instructed to help the veterinarians in any way they need help, Stout said. We have 25 people in the field scattered all over the state.

The KDA provides free metal tags to Kentucky farmers, vets and markets. To obtain tags, call Shannon Sparks in the State Veterinarians Office at (502) 564-3956. For more information about tagging, contact Jason Wachter at the same phone number.

Electronic tags can also be used as well as breed registration tattoos if accompanied by registration papers.

Because were already doing it, Stout said, it [the new ADT regulations] wont be that big of a change to Kentucky producers.