Planting Seeds - Food & Farming News from CDFA

State animal ID rules aim to assure livestock health – CDFA op-ed in Ag Alert

By CDFA veterinarian Rebecca Campagna

The ability to quickly trace movements of sick animals or animals exposed to disease is essential to maintain the health of California’s livestock. Individual animal identification and accurate record keeping are the foundations of animal disease traceability.

While animal disease traceability, or ADT, does not prevent disease, it is indispensable for disease-control programs and for emergency response investigations by animal health officials.

The United States Department of Agriculture and state animal health officials, including the California Department of Food and Agriculture, worked with livestock industry stakeholders to develop an animal traceability framework that enhances the ability to trace the movement of livestock. Federal ADT regulations became effective on March 11, 2013, and changes to California’s ADT regulations became effective on April 1 of this year.

California ADT regulations are modeled after the federal regulations but include some differences that adapt to California’s cattle industries.

For cattle and bison moving within California:

  • All dairy cattle born in California after Jan. 1, 2017, must be officially identified prior to leaving their birth premises. There is an exception: If moving directly to an approved tagging site, animals can have official identification placed upon arrival.
  • All dairy cattle changing ownership require official identification, with exceptions for animals moving to an approved tagging site where animals have official identification placed upon arrival; a recognized slaughtering establishment with a USDA approved backtag; or an approved livestock marketing facility that is also an approved tagging site, and then to a recognized slaughtering establishment with a USDA approved backtag. Animals may only go to one livestock marketing facility prior to slaughter.
  • Non-virgin bulls less than 18 months of age and all bulls 18 months of age and over must bear individual official identification prior to change of ownership—unless the bull is moving directly to a recognized slaughtering establishment with a USDA-approved backtag or on a Bull Slaughter Agreement.
  • Beef breed cows of any age moving to slaughter require an official identification device before slaughter or must be identified with a USDA backtag.

For cattle and bison entering California:

California regulations closely mirror federal regulations in that the following groups require official identification for entry: female dairy cattle of all ages; male dairy cattle born after March 11, 2013; and all cattle used for rodeo, show or exhibition.

Sexually intact female beef cattle 6 months of age and older and sexually intact male beef cattle 18 months of age and older require official identification to enter California. This state regulation differs slightly from the federal regulation that all sexually intact beef cattle 18 months of age and older need official identification, regardless of sex.

Cattle in all of these groups may be exempt from the requirement of official identification upon entry if they move directly from the farm of origin (that is, their birthplace) to an approved tagging site in California or a recognized slaughtering establishment with a USDA-approved backtag.

Cattle and bison entering California are also required to have a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection and Interstate Livestock Entry Permit, unless the animals are moving on a Special Entry Permit, moving to an approved livestock market or are passing through California.

Identification and records:

Official identification devices for cattle and bison include button Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) or bangle-type 840 tags; silver/’brite’ or National Uniform Eartagging System tags; or, in females, brucellosis orange metal or orange RFID tags in brucellosis-vaccinated animals.

Veterinarians, approved livestock facilities, approved tagging sites, registered feedlots and livestock markets must keep Certificates of Veterinary Inspection or alternate documentation, and any supporting documents required for the movement of livestock entering the facility, for five years. Approved licensed dealers must also maintain an individual identification record for each animal for five years. This must include the animal’s identification, the buyer and the seller. Any person receiving livestock and owners of the shipped animals must maintain official documents for five years.

If you want to look directly at the California regulations, they can be found in Title 3 of the California Code of Regulations, Sections 830-838; the federal regulations can be found in Title 9 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 86.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture Animal Health Branch is available to answer any questions about requirements for official identification and documentation for livestock movement within or into the state.

For more information on these requirements or other questions, please contact AHB headquarters in Sacramento: 916-900-5002 or any local AHB district office. District offices are located in Redding, 530-225-2140; Modesto, 209-491-9350; Tulare, 559-685-3500; and Ontario, 909-947-4462.

Please visit the AHB ADT website to find additional information on identification and documentation requirements at

Link to item in Ag Alert

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