The federal animal disease traceability (ADT) rule, which took effect in March 2013, includes new requirements for documentation and record keeping for several classes of cattle shipped across state lines. Valerie Ragan, DVM, outlined the regulations, ADT challenges and the potential for electronic documentation to streamline the process during a webinar presented by GlobalVetLink (GVL) this week.
Ragan currently serves as director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. Formerly, she served as assistant deputy administrator for Veterinary Services within USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), so she is well familiar with the traceability issue.
Ragan notes that federal animal ID programs are not new, but in the United States historically have focused on eradication of specific diseases. As progress is made in controlling those diseases, the numbers of animals or herds identified declines. For example, in the 1950s, about 150,000 U.S. cattle herds were affected by brucellosis, requiring breeding animals to be vaccinated and identified with ear tags. Today the number of affected herds is near zero, meaning fewer animals with standardized identification and the need for more comprehensive traceability.
The ADT program, Ragan says, is intended to minimize disease impacts and protect export markets. In the event of a disease outbreak, it will help animal-health officials determine where diseased animals are and where they’ve been, helping ensure a rapid response. It also will reduce the number of owners or operations impacted by a disease investigation.
Ragan explains that three primary concepts of an epidemiological investigation are:
- Learning where the disease came from.
- Identifying management factors involved in the disease spread.
- Learning where the disease went.
ADT, she says, can help with numbers 1 and 3 on that list. Proper identification and recording of movements can allow more accurate tracking of animals potentially exposed. Without effective traceability, many more herds that could have been exposed or received infected animals need to be tested, at greater expense and inconvenience to producers.
While the federal government set standards for the ADT rule, it is owned and administered by state and tribal animal health officials, and it largely makes use of existing systems such as the Interstate Certificates of Veterinary Inspection (ICVIs).