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OFFICIAL ID: UNWISE TO REMOVE

VERONA, WI – Today, thousands of animals will be transported across the country switching homes, owners, and possibly even tags or other forms of identification (ID). Whether animals are moved in-state, across state lines, or even out of the country it is important to maintain the integrity of all forms of official ID from RFID tags to metal ‘brite’ tags to backtags or American ID tags.

In recent years, the livestock industry has voiced many concerns about how official ID is being handled when animals are moved to and from the owner’s property. In some cases, owners have reported sending their animal tagged with official ID to a sale only to have that tag cut out upon arrival. The same scenario has been seen when truckers come to pick up animals for market, having official ID removed before loading the livestock onto the trailer.

No matter what the scenario is, the consequences of removing official ID before an animal is at a processing facility are enormous not only from a traceability and animal health perspective, but also from a management perspective. “From a Dairy Herd Information (DHI) perspective the issue of removing official ID from dairy animals severs the ability to positively identify an animal with her production records,” says Tom DeMuth, Manager of DHI Services with AgSource Cooperative Services. “This is especially disappointing when attempting to transfer her current and historical production to a new owner. Another huge loss would be if a tag has been removed on a heifer calf eliminating the link to her sire and dam, thus no genetic data.”

“Breed registries have integrated official ID tags into their programs with the goal of establishing a “one number, one animal” system to meet not only the registry program requirements for ID, but also National and State animal health and traceability initiative,” said Adam Griffin, Dairy ID Programs Manager with Holstein Association USA, Inc. “Removal of official ID tags not only complicates the ability to track animals through commerce, but can also impact the registration status of an animal and make it difficult to transfer performance data from one owner to another.”

While removal of official ID has a big impact on livestock producers, it has dire consequences in the case of animal health. “Official identification devices are intended to provide permanent identification of livestock and to ensure the ability to find the source of animal disease outbreaks,” says Dr. Michael Dutcher, the Wisconsin Area Veterinarian in Charge for the USDA-APHIS-VS. “When an animal is presented for slaughter, the official identification device is collected and maintained with the carcass until it has passed inspection. Without the official identification device, traceback to the affected farms is very difficult, if not impossible. It is critical that they not be removed any time during the animal’s life before they arrive at a slaughter plant, rendering facility, or diagnostic laboratory.”

Dr. Robert Fourdraine, COO of WLIC, recommends evaluating a tag before removing it. “Before considering the removal of an ear tag your first question should be, is this a USDA approved official ID tag? If you see a US shield, the answer is yes and this ID tag should never be removed since the ID number is linked to animal health programs and potentially various industry programs,” said Fourdraine. “If the answer is no then look for any other unique identification number and/or logo that may be printed on the ID device. If you find such a number or logo, preferably do not cut out the tag, however if you have to, contact the organization that issued the tag. It may be a breed registry tag, or a value-added program tag.”

The mission of the Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium is to create a secure livestock identification system to protect animal health and market access, and to offer opportunities that enhance the marketability of Wisconsin livestock products. Representing more than fifty businesses, organizations and livestock producer associations, WLIC draws upon the collective strength of its diverse membership to help strengthen and advance animal disease traceability in Wisconsin and the nation as a whole. To learn more about WLIC visit www.wiid.org.

For more information about official ID, please contact your area Veterinary Services staff at (608) 662-0600 or VSWI@aphis.usda.gov .