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Cattle Branding at Issue in New USDA Rule

Grace Hood
Under a new proposed USDA rule to be published tomorrow, ear tags would be the primary form of identification for cattle transported across state lines.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will publish a proposed rule later this week that would remove hot-iron cattle branding from the list of official livestock identification methods available to cattle producers. And that doesn’t sit well with some Colorado ranchers moving livestock across state lines.

The rule would require all livestock moving from state to state to be individually identified with an id device approved by the USDA, which would be an ear tag. That’s concerning to groups like the Ranchers–Cattleman Action Legal Fund, which represents thousands of producers across the country.

“The brand is permanent. It’s the most effective means to identifying animals and has been throughout history. And it’s been critically important to our success and tracing back diseases throughout our history,” said the group’s chief executive Bill Bullard.

Proponents of the rule argue that the numeric identification system on ear tags is important to greater U.S. participation in the global beef export market.

Under the new rule, Colorado and 13 other states would still allow ranchers to use the brand as a form of identification within state boundaries. The public has 90 days from tomorrow to comment on the new rule.