Timeline for changes to RFID cattle tags

Current regulations, other than the type of RFID cattle tag, do not change.
As of 1 January 2020 – Metal tags are no longer free of charge.

January 1, 2021 – Metal tags can no longer be applied to animals.

January 1, 2023 – Only official radio frequency identification (RFID) animal tags are considered to be official identification.

To order “840” official RFID tags, the producer will need to have a national local identification number (PIN).

How are changes to the official ID tag affecting you?

The conversion from metal tags to electronic identification (ID) tags is fast approaching, with official metal tags no longer free from 1 January 2020. Metal tags for animals will no longer be approved as of 1 January 2021.

The transition will be completed on 1 January 2023, when the “840” radio frequency identification (RFID) tags become the only acceptable form of official identification.

Starting on 1 January 2023, all animals with metal tags will have to be retagged with an official RFID tag to be considered officially identified. The initial round of tags in 2023 is likely to be subsidized.

After the first year, producers should plan to pay 100% of the cost of tags.

Why Official Identification Changes

The transition from official metal tags to “840” RFID tags is the first step towards improving the traceability of animal diseases (ADTs) for the cattle industry.

The identification of a suspected case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in 2003 highlighted the need for enhanced ADT. During the BSE investigation, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) failed to identify more than half of the animals imported in the suspected case. As a result, the cattle industry and the USDA have focused on the development of a national identification system capable of rapidly tracking cattle infected with foreign animal diseases.

Why manufacturers need to be involved

The amount of control and influence the livestock industry will have on the further development of the Regulation on traceability of animal diseases depends on regaining confidence following the failure of the voluntary National Animal Identification System (NAIS).

The cooperative involvement of the industry in the transition to electronic identification and its participation in traceability programs is essential to maintain the trust of the USDA, the consumer and the export market.

Past efforts on a national system of identification and traceability

In order to fully appreciate the task at hand, it is important to understand what has been tried in the past. The first attempt at a national animal identification system—the voluntary National Animal Identification System (NAIS)—was made late in 2003 (post-BSE) and is the backbone of our current system of traceability of animal diseases. This program increased the traceability of cattle by creating an animal identification number (AIN) and a premises identification number (PIN). The program determined that the removal of official tags would be unlawful. The program defined significant movements, such as:

The sale of an animal in private.

Sales of animals through the auction market.

Participation of animals in the exhibition.

Why changes to the current system are compulsory

Those who routinely use official animal ID tags may recognize that NAIS is no longer our traceability programme. The Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) program has been the system we have been using since 2011.

While NAIS outlined the needs of the traceability program and provided tools to meet the industry’s objectives, the voluntary plan had poor producer involvement, which minimized its chances of success. The lack of voluntary participation in the program, despite a focused campaign highlighting the benefits, has created our current predicament of mandatory regulations.

Pilot programs for producer-led traceability

Currently, two major pilot traceability programs are being developed and tested by the private sector. Both voluntary pilot programs are industry-driven rather than government-driven, with an emphasis on confidentiality for participants. The success of both programs depends on the participation of the beef industry. Their success or failure will dictate future regulations for the livestock industry.

Pilot Traceability program

Traceability Pilot is a collaborative effort between the Texas Cattle Feeders Association, the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, the Florida Cattlemen’s Association, and the Kentucky Beef Network. The program focuses on value-added premium opportunities between business-to-business partnerships in the industry. RFID-tagged animals with animal health and nutrition related information receive a $5 per head incentive from participating feedyards.

By capturing data on animal movements along the supply chain Pilot collects additional data points beyond the current system and hopes to pair this data capture with added value for the producer.

Electronic identification should make it possible to share data more easily at all points of the production chain.

Easy data sharing could mean the ability to return performance data from the feedlot to the cow/calf and storage level, and data from the packer back to all segments.

The CatttleTrace program

CattleTrace is a pilot program based in Kansas and has started as a partnership between Kansas State University, the Kansas Department of Agriculture, the Kansas Livestock Association and the Livestock Marketing Association. Since the start of the pilot project, CattleTrace has been extended to include several other states, private partners, processing partners, auction markets and industry representatives.

The CattleTrace program uses ultra-high frequency (UHF) technology.

The UHF-taged Cattle has its ID number, location, and time recorded whenever it is within the range of the reader.

The readers are located in various auction markets, feed yards and processing facilities across the country.

The entire system is passive, meaning that all data is recorded and uploaded automatically, requiring only the presence of a UHF tag on the working animal.

RFID and future tags

RFID tags will be an integral part of the foreseeable future of the cattle industry. Many operations have already adopted technology to improve records and workflows.

While a change in management is difficult, being active in developing processes for the future of our industry is vital to ensuring that programs for the traceability of animal diseases not only provide business security, but also opportunities to add value and improve our product by responding to production and quality needs.

RFIDs have many uses that can add value to a livestock operation. I encourage producers to accept the change, ask questions and discuss which programs will most benefit our industry.

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