Mon December 31, 2012

After Public Outcry, USDA Maintains Hot-Iron Brand as Livestock ID Form

After a three year battle, a symbol of the American west—the cattle brand—will be preserved in new rules governing livestock identification.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the final animal disease traceability rules earlier this month. While ear tags will be accepted across all 50 states, individual states can also decide to accept the hot-iron brand as a form of id. Brands were not included in the original rules proposed by the USDA.

It’s a step that the Colorado Livestock Association is applauding.

“The industry as a whole sees this as a big step forward especially accepting brands and tattoos because that’s such a common and widespread method used to id cattle,” said Rachel Mitchell, director of member programs for the Association.

At Montana-based Ranchers-Cattleman Action Legal Fund the victory is more guarded.

“We’re still concerned about this issue even though this new rule—the first rule—has largely accepted many of the recommendations that we’ve made,” said CEO Bill Bullard.

Under the USDA plan, producers relying on the brand will have to check state rules to ensure they’re in compliance.

Bullard said his group will be watching other states in the so called beef belt—states like Iowa and Nebraska—to see if they decide to accept the brand as a form of identification. Those details will be decided in 2013.

Most beef cattle under the age of 18 months are exempt from the official id requirements. The USDA is expected to issue separate id rules for this group of livestock—something groups like R-CALF will be watching closely.