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USDA to introduce animal tracking system

12/21/2012 @ 6:41am

A new mandatory livestock monitoring system aimed at helping government officials pinpoint sick animals in the event of a disease outbreak, will begin in February, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The new program, which replaces a voluntary system that failed to garner participation from much of the livestock industry, allows states flexibility in how the animals are tagged and how records are kept, only tracks the animals when they are shipped over state lines.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said the animal identification program will help USDA track down sick or potentially sick animals and prevent needless testing on animals that are not affected.

The tracking system will be valuable if USDA officials need to hunt down cows the agency believes might be infected with mad cow disease, the brain-wasting disease that can be transmitted to humans through tainted meat.

A dairy cow in California was diagnosed with mad cow disease in April and USDA officials conducted a massive search for any other cows that could also be infected.

USDA's decision to allow choices in how livestock can be identified, such as branding, ear tags and back tags was a relief, said Jess Peterson, Executive Vice President, US Cattlemen's Association.

"We are pleased that upon initial review of the rule these comments have been taken into consideration and implemented into a plan that from the outset appears to be a working set of guidelines for the industry," Mr. Peterson said.

Write to Bill Tomson at bill.tomson@dowjones.com

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(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 20, 2012 16:47 ET (21:47 GMT)

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