Beef Cattle Electronic ID

What about Beef Cattle Electronic ID tracking?

     Radio transponders have a variety of uses, including pet and livestock identification and unlimited tracking of just about anything connected to a moveable object, be it an animal, truck, tractor or?

     Transponder sizes range from very small to about any size you need. Larger transponders can be read from a greater distance. Each transponder has its own unique many digit code. Transponders are passive devices, they have no batteries. Transponder prices for large quantities range down to around $2 or so each. Readers or receivers can be hand held units, and frequently have computer data outputs for logging who or what passed by or through the antenna. Antennas range from pen-shaped objects to 15-inch (40-cm) diameter circles, or larger.

     GPS stands for “Global Positioning System” and today GPS navigation is really within the reach of most everyone. GPS is no longer only for geeks. Most people already have to deal with GPS, in one form or another. Most useful for all of us is maybe GPS in cell phones. Thanks to this technology emergency services (E911, E112) can know where you are in case you need help. Even if you do not know or can not tell exactly where you are.

Animal tracking is very important!
The National Animal Identification System is one of the most important topics in animal agriculture at this time. There has been much discussion on the program, implementation procedures, and protocol, but what does it mean to a producer?

     First, what is it? It is an animal identification system that will allow each animal that leaves the farm to be identified and traced to its farm of origin at any point in the production chain, and have records of each location where it was co-mingled with other animals.

     While this system is new, animal identification systems have been successfully implemented in the past. The identification system for brucellosis was initiated in the 1940s, and was instrumental in helping the fight against brucellosis. The difference in the brucellosis identification system of the 1940s and the National Animal Identification System of today is the scope and the global ramifications.

     Animal identification and tracking is more important today than ever. The threat of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy – “mad cow disease” – was brought to the attention of the American public after a cow tested positive for the disease in Washington in December 2003.

     The case resulted in a ban of cattle imported from Canada, where the cow came from, but it also raised awareness of the need to have the ability to trace the path of animals quickly and efficiently through every stage of production and ultimately back to their place of origin.

This ability allows us to quickly determine the origin of any suspected animal disease cases, a means to identify the cause of the disease (i.e. feeding animal proteins to ruminants), and hopefully, options to eliminate any further disease outbreaks from a given source.

     The case has also had a negative effect on beef export markets. Japan has closed beef imports from the United States until a tracking system is in place. Japanese consumers want not only to be able to track the beef supply but also want the age verification that will come with the system.

     The disease is not normally associated with cattle under 30 months of age. Japanese officials have gone one step further and demanded that all beef imported be age verified 21 months or younger.

     The bio-security awareness in the U.S. has also been heightened since the 9/11 attacks of 2001. The American people want a way to trace any possible terrorist threat, and attacking the national food supply is a possibility. All of these factors contribute to the need for an animal identification and tracking system, and that is what the system is designed to be.

     Animal identification and tracking will be done by using different technology for different species. The goal of the system is not only to identify and track cattle, but also camelids (llamas and alpacas), bison, cervids (deer and elk), equine, goats, poultry, sheep and swine.

     Obviously the way that cattle are individually tagged would not be realistic with poultry, so research is being done on the best way to identify each species.

     There are two different technologies currently used with cattle. One is the use of bar coded ear tags. These would work fine if it were not for the weather factor. Bar code tags tend to become damaged and unreadable when exposed to inclement weather conditions.

     The other choice that has become the industry standard is the use of electronic identification tags. These tags work by bouncing a signal from a reader to the tag and back to the reader. They work very well and are very weather-tolerant

     The tags will be available from many commonly known ear tag manufacturers such as allflex and Y tex, and should cost about $2.00 for each tag. The producer does not need a reader. The producer will need only the tags and a tagger, paper, pencil and a place to store his records.

     The technologies are here and available for producers to use, but the first step in this process is to obtain a premises number. In order for the system to be able to trace an animal back to place of origin, it must have a record of each producer’s location. Producers can now obtain their individual premise number, check with your state department of agriculture for availability in your area.

 The form is simple and easy to fill out. It will ask you for some contact information such as address and telephone number. It will also ask you for a user name and password. This is so that you can make contact changes to your information online.

     The form will also ask you to identify each premise that you have separately. That means that if you have three separate farms that are not connected, then you would need three separate premise numbers.

     You would still only have one “account” where your contact information is stored, but each farm or premise would have its own number corresponding to its address.

     The information you give on your premises registration form will be confidential; only the state veterinarian and his staff will have access to it, and it won’t cost you anything. The premise number, like individual tag information, is voluntary at this time.

     All producers, however, are encouraged to go ahead and obtain this number. It is free, it contains no personal information other than contact information and address, and it will probably be mandatory at some point. One final comment on the premise I.D. is that all livestock owners need to fill out the form and get their I.D., whether they have cattle, goats, poultry or any of the other animals identified by the system as livestock.

     The system is a major step in the livestock industry. It will involve some work from each level of the industry, but the possible rewards are tremendous. The system will help us track any outbreak of disease in our livestock. This will allow us to control and possibly eliminate the spread of many of these diseases.

     It will open borders that have been closed. Japan has said it will resume trade with the United States if we show them that we can positively guarantee our cattle shipped to them are less than 21 months of age. The system could possibly do that in the future.

     A tracking system would also allow us to market cattle for a premium if a producer consistently produces a quality product. Through this program, calves are tagged with electronic I.D. tags and followed through production. This allows cattlemen to know what kind of animal he is producing without the risk of retained ownership.

     Finally, the system will help the American farmer continue to produce a safe and wholesome product that the American consumer has confidence in. Animal identification and tracking is one more way to protect us from bio terrorism, and help guarantee that we are not susceptible to attacks on our food supply.