Gov. Mike Rounds signed into law a notable pair of South Dakota beef industry programs last month — a state-certified beef program and authorization for a voluntary individual animal ID system.

The South Dakota Certified Beef (SDCB) program is the first state-certified program in the nation. Expected to be fully functioning as early as this summer (operations and cattle are already enrolled), only product from cattle born, raised and harvested in South Dakota will qualify for the official state trademark. Pur-chasers of SDCB product will be able to trace the animal's life from birth through harvest.

The intent of the SDCB program isn't only to boost the value-added potential for the state's beef cattle and corn crop but spur development of South Dakota's packing segment, as well.

George Williams, South Dakota's deputy secretary of ag, says the South Dakota Department of Agriculture, which will administer the program and control the database, was to finish drafting the SDCB rules by mid March. He says 850 South Dakota farmers and ranchers have expressed interest.

According to a report in the October 2004 issue of BEEF (“South Dakota Steps Up,” page 60), program cattle must adhere to Beef Quality Assurance/Critical Management Plan (BQA-CMP) standards. They must be fed corn or distillers grain for a certain period before being slaughtered, and be electronically identified and tracked from birth through processing.

In addition, hormone- and antibiotic-free cattle could earn a special “natural” designation. For more on SDCB, see www.southdakotacertifiedbeef.com.

Meanwhile, the voluntary individual animal ID system for state livestock signed into law is designed to work in conjunction with SDCB, and dovetail into the wider effort to construct a national animal ID system. It will be administered by the South Dakota Animal Industry Board (AIB), which will have responsibility for data that can only be used for animal health and traceback purposes, says South Dakota State Veterinarian Sam Holland. The law also gives AIB authority to make the state ID program mandatory.

Holland says producer interest has been high in regard to the state's premises registration effort. He also reports more producers are inquiring about individual ID for their 2005 calf crops as they learn about the market potential for birth- and source-verified cattle.

He says date of birth and premises movement are the data his agency will maintain. The law was purposefully designed and constructed to ensure data confidentiality.

“We see animal ID for traceback purposes as something that's definitely coming. In exactly what shape time or form, we don't know,” Holland says. “Barring an immediate need like a case of BSE or an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, I think we're looking at five to 10 years before a really meaningful, comprehensive system for national tracking of animals is in place.”