Clearing Up the Confusion of USDA Mandatory ID

Confusion—that is likely the best way to describe the general consensus among cattlemen when it comes to mandatory identification for breeding age cattle that move from state to state.

In September 2018, the USDA announced four goals regarding Animal Disease Traceability (ADT): encourage the use of electronic identification for animals that move interstate under the current ADT regulation; enhance electronic sharing of basic animal disease traceability data; enhance the ability to track animals from birth to slaughter; and increase the use of electronic health certificates. With those goals in mind, the USDA posted a fact sheet in April 2019 that electronic ID would be required of all cattle beginning January 2021 that are not exempt from the ADT regulations. As part of that announcement, metal ear tags currently used for official identification would be transitioned to RFID tag.

Then in October 2019, USDA removed that factsheet after receiving feedback from the livestock industry, and an Executive Order from President Trump stating the need for transparency and communication on these issues before placing new requirements on American farmers and ranchers.

Posting, and then subsequently removing the guidance has been confusing, according to Dr. Jessica Watson, associate director of animal health policy with NCBA.

This does not apply to cattle that remain instate, she said. It only applies to cattle that cross state lines and are sexually intact cattle 18 months and older, cattle of any age used for rodeo, shows, exhibitions or events, and certain dairy cattle. The regulations do not apply to feeder cattle, or cattle headed to a processing facility.

Colorado State Veterinarian Dr. Keith Roehr said the USDA feels they already have rules in place to accomplish what they want to do, but are soliciting comments from producers, veterinarians, and external stakeholders before moving forward again with their timeline, calling this just a delay.

“The USDA currently requires (as of 2013) that all adult cattle have official ID before crossing state lines. State animal health officials and many producers understand the value of using official ID. What still needs to be considered, however, is the potential to use other types of official ID for interstate movement. Electronic tags, or visual tags that are already official ID, can be used. If someone vaccinates for brucellosis they can still use the orange metal clip tags, but USDA has stated that if they already have official ID they don’t have to use orange metal clips. They could use existing official ID to put on the official vaccination documents or upgrade that ID to an orange electronic ID or button tag,” he says.

Not sure if your next load of cattle need official ID? The website, has an interactive feature to help determine the requirements of cattle.

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