Producers should start preparing for new tagging regulations set to begin in 2023

Starting in 2023, the USDA will be requiring a different type of official identification tag allowed under the Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) program. In order to improve traceability, producers whose animals fall under the ADT rule will be required to have a radio frequency identification tag instead of the metal ID tags currently in use.

“The program is designed as a way to greatly improve animal traceability in the event of some sort of animal disease outbreak,” Andy McCorkill, University of Missouri Extension field specialist in livestock, explained. “Under the current system, with metal ‘clip on’ ear tags with a nationally-recognized individual identification number, it can take weeks of stumbling through records to track the travel history of a diseased animal. Under the new system, each time an animal is moved through a different shipping point, it will be recorded in a nationwide computer database that will be available in real time.”

According to the USDA, beginning Jan. 1, 2023, animals that move interstate and fall into specific categories will need official, individual RFID ear tags. This does not include feeder cattle. Under the current regulations feeder cattle as well as other cattle and bison that move directly to slaughter do not require individual identification.

Animals that will require official, individual RFID tags include:

• Sexually intact beef cattle and bison 18 months of age or older;

• All female dairy cattle of any age

• All dairy males born after March 11, 2013

• Cattle or bison of any age used for rodeo, show, exhibition and recreational events

Obviously, these tags are more technical than the current metal ID tags. According to experts at the Nobel Research Institute in Oklahoma, the tags contain a small antenna, a capacitor and a small transmitting/receiving radio. When the capacitor is energized sufficiently to power the radio transmitter, then a small radio signal is burst that contains only the 15-digit number that is printed on the tag.

“Readers setup at various points, such as livestock markets, feedlots and packers and others will be set up to read the tags as the animals pass through. RFID tags have been around for several years now, but with newer technology, scanners can scan many animals at once and read them more often as well,” McCorkill explained.

While not all producers have animals that fall under the ADT rule, it can’t hurt to be prepared, especially as rules and regulations may change again in the future and even better traceability might be required from birth. RFID tags can be purchased now and can be put in with or without the assistance of a veterinarian.

Producers can put the tags in with no difficulty using the same tagging pliers that works for most visual tags with only small modification for EID (electronic identification) tags, according to the Nobel Institute.

The USDA has implemented the following timeline to give producers time to properly adjust to the new requirements:

• Dec. 31, 2019 – USDA will discontinue providing free metal tags. However, approved vendors will still be permitted to produce official metal tags for one additional year. Approved vendor tags will be available for purchase on a state-by-state basis as authorized by each state animal health official through Dec. 31, 2020.

• Jan. 1, 2021 – USDA will no longer approve vendor production of metal ear tags with the official USDA shield. Accredited veterinarians and/or producers can no longer apply metal ear tags for official identification and must start using only Official RFID tags.

• Jan. 1, 2023 – RFID ear tags will be required for beef and dairy cattle, and bison moving interstate that meet the above requirements. Animals previously tagged with metal ear tags will have to be retagged with RFID ear tags in order to move interstate. Feeder cattle and animals moving directly to slaughter are not subject to RFID requirements.

More information on the new requirements can be obtained from veterinarians, USDA offices and state agriculture departments, as well as online.


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