As concerns of a large-scale, foreign animal disease outbreak in the United States grow, cattle producers in Missouri may be looking for ways to better protect and prepare their operations. Rose Massengill, from the USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Services, joined the July Pearls of Production meeting in Lamar, MO to discuss USDA programs tackling these issues.

2021 is the second year the USDA has provided free electronic identification tags for livestock producers.

“Missouri has been pretty slow to adopt the technology,” Massengill said. “We’re a little more inclined to see how things go in other places before we jump in.”

The metal tags currently used by the USDA for disease eradication programs and interstate commerce have not been updated in over 50 years.

“USDA is trying to modernize the traceability system for cattle,” Massengill said. “A big part of that will be electronic identification, along with electronic certificates of veterinary inspection.”

The updated tag is a small button tag that is placed in the middle of the ear. In addition to providing animal identification, the tag can also be the official tag for brucellosis vaccinations and disease testing.

“The state veterinarian decided to distribute these tags through Missouri practicing veterinarians,” Massengill said. “Any practicing veterinarian can access the supply of tags simply by calling the Department of Agriculture veterinary supply number.”

The tags are made by three separate suppliers, although most of the supply in Missouri is the Datamars brand.

“Initially there were complaints about those tags,” Massengill said. “But the company took the feedback they got from producers and have improved their tags.”

These tags are low frequency, meaning the reader needs to be within 18 inches to read the electronic data. Each tag also has a unique number printed on its face, so no additional technology is needed for everyday use.

“When you get the opportunity to get something like this for free, it’s a good time to give the technology a try,” Massengill said.

As large scale, foreign animal disease outbreaks become more of a threat, producers are also encouraged to participate in secure beef supply planning.

“It’s voluntary and industry driven,” Massengill said.

The USDA provided funding to the University of Minnesota and Iowa State University to develop templates for each industry group.

“For beef producers, it’s now aligned with the Beef QualityAassurance program,” Massengill said.  “The producer sits down and uses the template to develop a written plan of how to keep their herd healthy and free of disease.”

Each plan consists of two parts, the routine biosecurity practices and enhancements a producer would make in the event of an outbreak or emergency situation . The plans are an effort to keep industries operating, and keep any outbreaks isolated.

“A lot of producers, when they hear this kind of stuff, they think it will never happen,” Massengill said. “But if something like Foot and Mouth Disease did come to the United States, there would be no movement of livestock for at least 72 hours. Animals already on a truck would probably end up at its destination, but any movement from then on would have to be permitted.”

An outbreak like Foot and Mouth Disease could shut down operations miles from where the outbreak initially occurred, but a secure beef supply plan could help producers continue to operate.

“A secure beef supply plan, if you have that already in place, can be shown to the state veterinarian,” Massengill said. “And if they can, they will give you a permit to move your animals because you’ve demonstrated, in writing, that you are trying to keep diseases away from your farm.” 

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