Ask the Vet

Paperwork for Animal Travel Is Important

Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (Jennifer Carrico)

READER: What is the difference between the old health certificate we used to get and a certificate of veterinary inspection? A health certificate seemed to be a lot easier to get than what we have to do now.

DR. McMILLAN: Several years ago, state and federal government agencies moved to a new terminology. The term "health certificate" implied the animals were "healthy." The new term, certificate of veterinary inspection (CVI), was chosen to indicate the animal or animals had been inspected by a veterinarian accredited by the USDA and, at the time of inspection, showed no signs of infectious or contagious diseases. In addition, the animals have met the requirements of the destination area, which is necessary for interstate shipment. These can include methods of identification, tests, treatments, vaccinations, specific required statements or other procedures. This will vary based on the species of animal, its age, sex and origin, and the purpose of travel. The CVI must also include the name, address and phone number of the consignor and present owner, destination of the shipment, the carrier or transporter, purpose of movement, method of transport, and species, age, sex and official ID of the animals.

This process can be fairly simple or extremely complex depending on the variables involved, but it is extremely important in protecting animals, the people involved and the public. Both the owner of the animals and the veterinarian have an obligation and liability to comply with all the requirements and assure the health of the animals involved.

CVIs can be the traditional paper form, but new platforms for electronic versions make it much easier and simpler for the producer, the accredited veterinarian and shipping and receiving states.

At times, it may seem complex and cumbersome, but it is serious business, and it is the law.

READER: What are the benefits of following a preconditioning vaccination program on calves? Should I get the paperwork when I take them to the sale barn even if I have a small group?

DR. McMILLAN: Disease prevention is in everyone's best interest. Every level must be profitable for the industry to prosper. Healthy animals help stockers, feedlots and packers control costs and produce the highest quality product. This is a "hidden" payback to a preconditioning program.

At the producer level, a well-designed and implemented herd-health program will decrease the incidence of disease, increase weaning weights and maximize the genetic potential of the cattle, increasing profitability to the producer.

Marketing for smaller producers for maximum return is a different issue. If you market cattle directly to a sale barn, documentation of a preconditioning or vaccination program may not increase the price you receive. Order buyers do not look at your group of calves as much as they look at a load of cattle. So, your cattle, while preconditioned, may end up with others that are not, and this may not translate into an economic benefit for the buyer.

A better option for small producers is to use a cooperative marketing program. The goal is to group truckload numbers of uniform cattle that have a similar preconditioning and weaning program, and offer them for sale. Many times, these cattle are sold and picked up from the farm, eliminating stress and disease exposure in a stockyard.

Alternatively, many states offer retained ownership programs for small numbers of calves. They will set rules and assemble truckload lots to be shipped to the feedlot. You retain ownership of the cattle all the way to the rail. This can allow you to capture more of the profit on your cattle and get real carcass data back that can be used to help with culling decisions on cows and bull selection to improve the genetic quality of your cattle.

So, should you precondition your calves? Absolutely. But, to capture the maximum value requires a marketing plan so that buyers know and are willing to pay for the value you added to your calves.


-- Please contact your veterinarian with questions pertaining to the health of your herd. Every operation is unique, and the information in this column does not pertain to all situations. This is not intended as medical advice but is purely for informational purposes.

-- These are only my thoughts and general guidelines. Please get with your veterinarian and together develop the best program for your herd.

-- Email Dr. Ken McMillan at