The 2001 outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the United Kingdom made a lasting impression on American livestock producers and agricultural leaders alike.

One key lesson learned by American agriculture, says a veterinarian with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, is the importance of traceability to slow disease spread.

Dr. Soren Rodning, Extensionveterinarian, says managing the outbreak was difficult for several reasons.

“One of the biggest challenges they faced in dealing with the disease outbreak was the difficulty in tracking animal movements,” says Rodning. “The quicker you can identify animals that may have been exposed to the disease, the more rapidly you can begin to effectively manage the outbreak.”

He says a new program managed by the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries addresses that problem by improving the ability to track animal movements in the state if there is a disease outbreak.

“The Animal Disease Traceability Rule became effective at the first of the year,” says Rodning. “Cattle more than 18 months of age must have an official identification number when ownership changes.”

State veterinarian Dr. Tony Frazier says improved tracking of animal movements is a critical element of effective rapid response to disease outbreaks.

“Rapid response systems minimize economic impact when diseases enter this country and disrupt the movement of livestock,” says Frazier. “This rule will help rapidly trace animals in the event of a potential livestock disease outbreak.”

The rule covers most livestock, but Frazier says it is the regulations for cattle and bison older than 18 months that is attracting the most attention.