USDA plans to publish a proposed rule by April for the ID requirements underpinning what’s being called the Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) system. Official USDA ID would be among the mandatory requirements for moving cattle across state lines.

Like the failed National Animal Identification System (NAIS) that USDA attempted the past several years, ADT is intended to fill current gaps in cattle ID and traceability. The gaps are there because of the success of disease eradication programs – such as those for brucellosis and bovine tuberculosis – which served historically as a sort of de facto national ID system.

You might remember that NAIS leaned toward electronic ID, a voluntary system and a single federal database with the goal of being able to trace livestock, especially cattle, within 48 hours, for the purposes of animal disease monitoring and disease containment.

You likely also remember the controversy and confusion surrounding NAIS. USDA finally hoisted the white flag in February when USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a new, flexible framework for animal disease traceability was needed. See plan details at

ADT revolves around mandatory ID for cattle entering interstate commerce, using old, reliable, albeit slower technology: brite tags (think here of those metal clip tags used for calfhood vaccinates); a paper trail of Interstate Certificates of Veterinary Inspection (ICVI); and state animal health databases. Currently USDA plans to provide latitude for other official tag types, but the brite tags are what USDA plans to provide producers free of charge.

The bottom-line initial goal considered with ADT is the ability to trace 95% of the cattle within seven business days. That’s a far cry from the NAIS goal of tracking all cattle within 48 hours, but it’s a place to start.

Though the ADT program would apply to all species, USDA’s focus is on cattle. Commercial poultry producers, pork producers, dairy producers and sheep producers already have traceability in place through disease programs and how they currently conduct business.

The U.S. Animal Health Association (USAHA) and National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA) hosted an open meeting in late August for the industry to discuss ADT and to identify any points of consensus. The meeting drew 193 individuals from 43 states, four tribes, 33 state animal health agencies, 38 industry organizations, eight universities, and 34 producers and supply companies. Virtually all state animal health departments were represented. In addition, representatives from Canada, Mexico and Japan participated.

You can find a white paper developed from the USAHA-NIAA discussions at

Consensus points from the meeting included continuing to allow the use of backtags for cows and bulls headed to slaughter, and proving the system in adult cattle before requiring official ID in stocker calves and feeder cattle.