Scales and Weighing

PSD's mission in the area of accurate weights consists of two elements that affect the integrity of livestock and poultry transactions: (1) the accuracy of the scales used for weighing livestock, meat, and poultry, and (2) the proper and honest operation of scales to ensure that the weight on which a transaction is based is accurate. The major emphases in the enforcement of this program are the monitoring of scale tests and the detection of improper and fraudulent use of subject scales.

Scale Testing

Stockyard owners, market agencies, dealers (including video auctions), packers, or live poultry dealers that weigh livestock, live poultry, or feed, must have their scales tested at least twice each calendar year (section 201.72(a) (9 CFR 201.72(a)). This requirement for twice a year testing also applies to swine contractors and has been in place in some form since September 24, 1984 (49 FR 37374).

On January 20, 2011, AMS published a rule (76 FR 3485) to better define scale testing requirements. This new rule specifies that one of the two scale tests must occur between January 1 and June 30 of the calendar year and the second must occur between July 1 and December 31 of the calendar year. A minimum of 120 days is required between these two tests. More frequent testing is required for scales that do not maintain accuracy between tests.

Example (for a scale used throughout the year): A scale is tested for the first time in 2011 on May 15, meeting the requirement of a test between January 1 and June 30. The second test needs to be between July 1 and December 31 and more than 120 days after the first test or in this case August 13, 2011. So the second test must occur between August 13 and December 31, 2011.

In this new rule, AMS has provided an exception for the testing of scales used on a limited seasonal basis, which we clarified on April 4, 2011, and corrected on August 17, 2011. A seasonal scale is one used during any continuous 8-month period. AMS requires that seasonal scales be tested once during the calendar year and that the test have been conducted within 8 months prior to its use.

Example (seasonal): If a scale is tested on May 15, that test is valid until January 15 and you can use the scale throughout that period. If you want to use the scale after January 15, you would need to have another test conducted and the scale would no longer be considered a seasonal scale for that year.

Instructions for Testing Livestock and Animal Scales (pdf) is a practical guide for testing livestock and animal scales. It explains proper procedures for inspecting and testing scales subject to the Packers and Stockyards (P&S) Act, while following the requirements of the National Institute for Standards and Technology's (NIST) Handbook 44. Regulation 201.71 issued under the P&S Act incorporates by reference Handbook 44. All scales subject to the P&S Act are required to meet applicable requirements contained in Handbook 44.

Regulations issued under authority of the P&S Act require that persons weighing livestock and live poultry for purposes of purchase or sale under the P&S Act perform their duties in accordance with official instructions.

Accurate Weighing