Tuesday, April 30, 2013
A new federal livestock identification program, which went into effect March 11, requires dairy cows and sexually intact beef cattle over 18 months of age to be registered when they are shipped across state lines.
The regulations will help agriculture officials track livestock in cases of disease outbreaks, allowing epidemiological investigators to quickly learn from which farm a suspect animal originated.
In most cases, farmers and ranchers will use ear tags that assign a number to each animal. But, in some cases, tattoos and old-fashioned brand marks are acceptable forms of animal identification. The new program gives states flexibility in deciding how animals will be identified -- an important concession to cattle ranchers in Western states, where brands are still commonly used.
Many livestock producers have been affixing identification to their animals to keep track of medical treatments such as tuberculosis vaccinations, medications and feed requirements.
While the new federal program covers a range of livestock, much of the focus has been on cattle because aggressive programs to fight diseases in other species, such as sheep scabies, have already resulted in widespread identification of those animals.
John Comerford, associate professor of animal science, Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences
Animal Husbandry and Livestock Books
Artwork: Branding Cows in Colorado (1903)
Livestock Ear Tags