RFID tags soon to be mandatory for Indiana cattle

posted on Monday, July 29, 2019 in Current News

By Gary Truitt, Hoosier Ag Today

Indiana cattle producers will have to change the way they tag their animals. The Indiana Board of Animal Health announced this week that following the lead of USDA, RFID tags are being mandated. “Beginning January 1, 2023, RFID-equipped ear tags will become the official form of identification for cattle recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Starting in 2023, old-style, visual-only metal clip tags and plastic IDs will no longer be recognized as official,” said  BOAH Public Information Director Denise Derrer. She added this represents a  significant change for producers but one that is necessary in today’s livestock industry.

“RFID ear tags improve our ability to quickly and accurately identify animals involved in an animal disease investigation,” said BOAH veterinarian Cheryl Miller, DVM. “This technology helps producers, veterinarians, and livestock markets keep more accurate records of animal movements, which improves our ability to identify specific animals.”  A good example of this occurred recently in Indiana when two calves that originated from a TB-affected farm in Wisconsin were shipped to Indiana. Dr. Miller explained, “Those calves were just two of more than 100 that were acquired from several different Wisconsin farms, pooled together and shipped to Indiana. After they arrived at an Indiana livestock market, the calves were dispersed to seven different Indiana farms.”

While the calves were tagged—using old-style metal clip tags. When the Wisconsin state veterinarian notified BOAH, the question was: Where did they go?

“This scenario is not uncommon,” said Dr. Miller. “Investigating seven farms, instead of one—where the exposed calves were found and tested negative for bovine TB—required more time, manpower, and expense to the state to close the case.”  Dr. Miller believes scannable RFID tags could have changed the course of this disease trace.

Derrer says many Hoosier producers have already made the move to the radio frequency tags, “Since 2014, nearly 2 million 840 tags have been distributed in Indiana. BOAH continues that effort by providing a limited quantity of free RFID tags and tag applicators to help participating veterinarians provide their clients with the latest technology. The TurnIN, TradeUp program is made possible through a grant from the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. Participating veterinarians must also commit to using digital certificates of veterinary inspection for client paperwork, further increasing the speed of traceability.” She added that BOAH supports the use of RFID tags for all species. It is likely that the future will hold mandated use of this technology in other sectors of agriculture.