Look locally: WLSB discusses local approach to animal I.D.Written by Jennifer Womack
Solutions called for by Logan involve little technology, moderate cost and a program similar to what’s now being done for brucellosis. Pointing out that the state was a leader in creating an individual identification program for sheep in the name of scrapie eradication, Logan says he believes the state can do the same for cattle and other livestock. While just beginning, Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) leaders hope to move the discussion forward over the summer with a more detailed discussion at the listening session planned for Douglas on August 13.
Lost Cabin rancher Rob Hendry, who markets his calves with electronic individual identification tags in place, says he wouldn’t be opposed to the program. He would, however, like to be able to continue using the higher-tech approach. Logan says such an effort by willing producers could enter the state into a workable system while testing a higher tech option for future years.
“Let’s try a program,” agreed Laramie County rancher Curt Epler noting that modifications could be made as needed.
By adding numbers to something similar to existing blue Wyoming identification tags the state has used in its brucellosis identification program for the past eight years, Logan says animals could be traced individually. To be effective Logan says all livestock would need to be part of the program with enforcement occurring during brand inspection and at change of ownership.
Tags of this style are less than a nickel each. Logan says they’d carry a number indicating the animal’s birth year and origin. Information surrounding the animal would be held at the WLSB and not accessible to other agencies unless there was an animal disease traceback underway.
“We haven’t put the meat on it yet,” says WLSB Agency Director Jim Schwartz. “It’s just a concept at this point.” Once implemented he’s hopeful the program can be used for both marketing and animal traceback. “Eighty percent of the time the brand program works, but the other 20 percent is pretty high and we need to make sure we can trace those animals,” says Schwartz.
Logan says pasture cattle coming into the state would have to receive Wyoming tags or carry something similar from their origin state. “I do think other states will look at it,” he says of the possibility of the system being implemented region-wide.
The system, if adopted, would require manual data input and additional staffing at the agency’s Cheyenne office. Schwartz doesn’t envision the tag numbers being recorded each time the cattle are looked at requiring that they be run through the chute at inspection time, but that they serve as information surrounding origin.
“There’s also questions about steers since they’re almost always a terminal animal,” says Schwartz. “We’re going to have to work with the industry and the producers and find what works for them.”
Logan envisions a 2009 budget request to the Wyoming Legislature to cover both the cost of tags and implementation. Livestock owners would be responsible for placing the tags in their animals. In the case of cattle, Logan says he sees much of that happening at branding. As for sheep, the program would be on the existing scrapie tag program and be expanded to include lambs.
Schwartz says any budget request is likely to be part of a larger proposal as the agency looks to beef up its abilities to address animal health issues.
“It’s not something we can jump right into,” says Logan. “We’ve got to get the information laid out there and find out what it can and can’t do.” One challenge could be time, not only at the information databases in Cheyenne but in the field recording individual numbers.
While he hasn’t received specific feedback from the USDA, Logan says they have asked if the WLSB is opposed to that agency’s National Animal Identification System. “We are not opposed to having a national system, in fact we agree that there needs to be a national ID system,” says Logan. but, it needs to be acceptable to producers, simple, convenient, and not cost prohibitive, in addition to being efficient. We’ve heard from a couple of APHIS folks that they’d be willing to look at anything Wyoming develops.” APHIS is the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, an agency within the USDA that oversees the struggling NAIS.