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USDA to require livestock ID

HELENA – Federal officials looking to head off livestock disease outbreaks are drafting regulations that would require farmers to identify animals that move across state lines.

The aim is to reduce illness and deaths by making it easier for officials to trace brucellosis, tuberculosis and other diseases to a particular group of animals, location and time.

The regulations are expected to be implemented in 2013.

“A voluntary system has not worked so far, and that’s why the USDA has gone back to the drawing board and created a system that relies much more strongly on compulsory or mandatory identification instead of voluntary,” said Marty Zaluski, a Montana veterinarian and a member of the USDA working group drafting the new rules.

Last year, more than 19 million of the nation’s 30 million beef cows and 9 million dairy cows crossed state lines.

Data from 2006 and 2007 show that only 28 percent of the nation’s adult cattle had any form of official identification that would allow them to be tracked, said David Morris of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

States will have authority to decide how to track livestock moving within their own borders, but they will be accountable to the federal government for the system they choose.

Besides dealing only in interstate commerce, the new federal regulation would also require animals to have a certificate of health from a veterinarian – with some yet-undefined exceptions.

The USDA is holding a series of public meetings on the proposed regulations and plans to have a draft rule ready in April 2011.