An effective animal disease traceability program has been long awaited. Producers and government officials in Kansas recently kicked off a pilot program for a mandatory disease traceability. The program is called Cattle Trace and will serve as a trial for this type of system.
Importance of Disease Traceability
For more than 20 years, the idea of disease traceability has been constantly thrown around. The need is certainly recognized, but there have been no advancements made. The USDA has been working to implement a nationwide program for around 20 years. The current animal disease traceability program is a start, but not the answer.
Only two developed countries do not have full nationwide systems of animal disease traceability. Those countries are the U.S. and India. It will be crucial for this to change in the next few years.
“We want to enhance partnerships and scientific tools necessary to prevent and mitigate, and where possible, eradicate pests and diseases,” said Gregory Ibach, former Nebraska secretary of agriculture and now USDA under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs. “We also want to make a priority at USDA of safeguarding the domestic food supply and protecting animal health through modernizing the tools needed to bolster biosecurity, prevention, surveillance, emergency response and border security.”
Ibach said the USDA is taking a “three-legged stool” approach. The first, and most important leg is prevention. The other legs are preparedness and response. To execute this approach, the USDA needs a quality traceability program.
“If we do have a disease occur, we need to identify that disease early and we need to take steps to rapidly respond and mitigate the impacts of that animal disease,” Ibach said. “You and I both know that disease traceability is a critical component in being able to do that.”
The USDA is changing how it approaches accomplishing this goal. They are looking to turn the mechanical and technology discussions over to the industry. This will allow them to find what works best as well as what the industry prefers.
A coalition of industry and government in Kansas kicked off a pilot program for mandatory disease traceability in cattle. The program is named Cattle Trace. It aims to involve about 55,000 cattle from farm to feedlot through harvest. Additionally, it looks to use mock disease events to test the logistics of such a system.
The project is described as a “public-private” partnership to “develop and test a purpose-built cattle disease traceability infrastructure in Kansas that will guide discussion and development of traceability on a national scale.”
So far, participants include Kansas Livestock Association, Kansas State University and the Kansas Department of Agriculture. Cattle Trace is described as a third-party, stand alone entity. This means only Cattle Trace personnel will have access to data collected on the tagged animals.
“Government, the state animal health official or USDA will only gain access to the data in the event of a disease outbreak,” said Mary Soukup, assistant secretary with the KDA. She added the program will collect the minimum data necessary, including individual animal identification numbers, GPS locations and date/time stamps. The data will be collected using ultra-high frequency technology.
Brandon Depenbusch, vice president of cattle operations for Innovative Livestock Services, said the project is an opportunity to develop a cattle disease traceability system on their terms. Additionally, he said Cattle Trace will enable them to do the right thing for animal health and biosecurity, and for the entire U.S. beef cattle industry.
How It Works
The initial goal is to tag 55,000 calves for the pilot. Those calves will then be followed all the way from the ranch to the packer.
Cattle Trace will use ultra-high frequency technology to collect what it calls “the minimal data necessary”. This includes an individual animal identification number, a GPS location, and date and time. The data collected will allow them to track animals in the event of an outbreak.
Tag readers will be livestock markets, feedyards and beef processors. Movement data collection will begin in fall 2018, and the project will continue for about two years.
Cassie Kniebel, Cattle Trace project manager, said she expects the project to begin with data collection this fall and the first tests beginning next spring. Additionally, she is hopeful the first report on logistics and function will be created by next summer.
An effective disease traceability program has been long awaited. The U.S. and India are the only two developed countries remaining without a program of this kind. Kansas is taking the first steps in initializing this program. Cattle Trace will launch this fall and collect data on 55,000 calves from the ranch to harvest. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of disease traceability programs all over.
Image courtesy of Angus Journal