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2013-01-03

New Cattle Traceability Rule Q&A -What you need to know

Courtesy of Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC)

Q: Do I need to keep records of individual identification when I sell my animal(s)?
A: While keeping records is not required when animals are sold as part of a livestock breeding or production operation, producers are strongly encouraged to do so. Dealers are required to keep records, including individual animal identification, as part of a separate rule.
Q: Who is responsible for maintaining the information related to eartag distribution?
A: All metal tag numbers assigned will be maintained in a TAHC-managed database. The TAHC does not track individual change of ownership transactions.
Q: What is the legal obligation of the livestock market in the mandatory ID program?
A: A change of ownership is a transaction between a seller and a buyer, and the seller is responsible for assuring his animals have official identification. The market however can be considered as an agent representing the seller. Animals that do not meet the identification requirement can be restricted from being moved and, therefore, held at the market.
Q: If a trace back occurs, can the TAHC require a market to release its sales records? What if there are no records of individual identification?
A: TAHC rules require markets to keep certain records for a minimum of five years, and to make the records available for inspection by TAHC representatives. One of the requirements is to keep records of individual animal identification numbers of animals sold. The TAHC anticipates market operators will voluntarily keep records correlating eartags and backtags on their own accord, to provide the best service to their customers.
Q: Can I move my cattle directly to slaughter from my farm or ranch without an ID?
A: Yes, ranchers can move an animal from their premise directly to slaughter without an ID because these animals can be traced through plant records. Breeding cattle otherwise changing ownership by private treaty sales, through a market or video auction must have acceptable permanent identification.
Q: What happens if my cattle are too weak to be safely tagged at market?
A: The Commission proposed an amendment at the September 2012 meeting that would allow some flexibility in application of the rule. If the amendment passes as proposed, a TAHC inspector in consultation with market ownership or management may exempt beef cattle at a market if the animal's physical condition makes the handling required to apply permanent identification unsafe or injurious in nature. Exempt cattle must be sold and consigned to an approved slaughter facility, and movement may be permitted by the TAHC.
Q: Who has violated the rule if a non-slaughter buyer takes possession of an exempt (untagged) animal?
A: The seller is technically in violation of the rule, but if a buyer or the livestock market is knowingly violating the requirement then the TAHC can take compliance action on them if necessary.
Q: Can the auctioneer refuse to accept a higher bid on an exempted animal if he doesn't know whether the bidder is buying for slaughter?
A: This process is similar to the sale of bulls not tested for Trichomoniasis. Accepting the bid is the personal choice-discretion of the auctioneer. TAHC inspectors will help enforce the identification rule at the time of sale when possible.
Q: If an exempted animal is sold to a non-slaughter buyer, who is responsible for stopping them from paying for and taking the animal?
A: The seller is responsible for assuring his animals are properly identified. However, if a buyer or a livestock market knowingly takes action that facilitates violation of the requirement, the TAHC can take compliance action on all appropriate parties.
For additional ear tag information, including the nearest distributor of free USDA tags, contact the TAHC Traceability Team at 1-800-550-8242, Ext. 733, visit www.tahc.state.tx.us or contact a local region office.