New system to trace livestock in Washington

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OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The state of Washington is implementing rule changes as part of its new system to trace livestock in the event of a disease outbreak. Representatives of the livestock and dairy industry support the moves.

Livestock and dairy industry representatives say several new state rule changes will help them deal with an animal disease outbreak.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture director Bud Hover recently approved several rules that will be incorporated into the state's new animal disease traceability system. It is slated to begin operation in 2015.

The new rules will:

. Establish a 23-cent per-head fee on cattle sold or slaughtered in Washington or transported out of state. The fee will fund the operation and maintenance of two computer systems used to collect information needed to quickly trace animal movements.

. Eliminate a livestock inspection exemption for private sales of unbranded, female, dairy breed cattle involving 15 head or less. Also, a buyer not moving cattle out of state must have a certificate of permit at the time of inspection.

. Require veterinarians to report cases of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus and valley fever to WSDA monthly.

. Require raw milk dairies that introduce new animals into their herds to test for bovine tuberculosis for 60 days, an increase from 30 days.

Most of the rules become effective Jan. 30. The animal disease traceability system begins July 1. The dairy exemption will be eliminated by 2016.

"The way we currently do things when we're trying to track animal movement is paper — a lot of looking through boxes and under people's desk for files, said Hector Castro, communications director for WSDA. "It's very manual, labor-intensive and can take a long time."

The database will allow the state veterinarian to quickly trace the origin of livestock in the event of an animal disease outbreak and limit exposure, said Jack Field, executive vice president of the Washington Cattlemen's Association.

"This is a very positive step forward, this is an industry-led effort," he said. "This is going to be a very welcome system for producers of all sizes through all segments of the industry."

The dairy industry is working to set up an electronic reporting system before the exemption is eliminated. It would be easier and faster than having a brand inspector come out, said Dan Wood, director of government relations for the Washington State Dairy Federation. Removal of the exemption will coincide with the introduction of the new system, Castro said.

"Most of the dairy producers already have the data in their computers," Wood said. "It makes sense to us that they be able to transfer that electronically rather than paying for time, mileage and a higher fee for someone to come out and see with their own eyes what's already in the database."

Ninety percent of producers indicated they would use an electronic system, Wood said.

The state continues to develop the electronic systems required to implement the new traceability program, Castro said.

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