Wyo animal ID discussion continues
Cheyenne — “Should Wyoming have a mandatory animal identification program for disease traceback purposes?” asked Wyoming state veterinarian Jim Logan to producers, Wyoming agriculture organizations and Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) members at a meeting March 31.
A number of individuals provided personal perspectives and experiences regarding animal identification in addition to representatives from multiple organizations who explained their policy requirements for a Wyoming identification program.
Meeteetse rancher Joe Thomas explained his operation began to tag calves in 2005 when Decatur Feedlot in Kansas asked him to participate in an electronic sort system.
“The main reason I started was to get carcass data on my cattle. As a producer the frustrating part is that we do all the work and it falls down on the other end. If there’s a problem they come to us first, because that’s what the tag says, regardless of where that cow may have traveled. She might have contracted something at her second location instead of at mine.
“I’m ready to try it again, but I use it for a difference purpose than disease traceback, I use it for the data I get,” adds Thomas.
Wayne Faholtz of the Padlock Ranch in Sheridan also implemented an individual animal identification system on his operation when it was believed it would become a national requirement.
“We have been pleased with individual animal identification. When discussing traceback you have to include the other benefits to producers, and we’ve found we can do a lot with it. We do a lot of inventory control and can tell if we’re missing animals. We’ve also sold through a natural beef program and there’s a premium to have cattle age and sourced. This year we sold to Cargill and they wanted them age and source verified. We see it as a positive and it’s helped our management. It’s another aspect of marketing,” says Faholtz.
Rob Hendry of Lysite currently utilizes individual animal identification to increase marketability of his calves and started when the national program began.
“Putting individual animal identification in is a traceback factor, but it’s also a huge marketing factor. I like the idea of an animal identification program. There is a lot of talk about premises numbers and the feeling that too much information is required. I put in a tax return each year that includes way more information than that tag will give them. I’m all for it,” said Hendry.
Martin Whizner is a small sheep producer who doesn’t see any additional benefits to implementing individual animal identification on his operation.
“We’re a smaller producer and when we see some of the costs tossed around such as RFID, it’s really quite a burden. I’m not seeing any additional benefits to us or increased protection of the consumer against disease,” commented Whizner.
“We have to realize that we’re exporting to people who want source and age verification and traceability. The better the market, the more restrictions there are. They’re telling us what they want. We can’t tell them, ‘Here’s a container of beef and you’re going to take it,’ because that doesn’t happen. It’s our responsibility to meet buyer qualifications if we want to export, and the biggest requirement today is age and source verification. I don’t see why it can’t be tied to traceability,” commented Irv Petsch.
Hugh Peltz of True Ranches in Wheatland uses individual identification and says it makes keeping track of cattle much easier throughout the year.
“We started individual animal identification a couple years before we thought it would become mandatory. We bought a lot of equipment, which was a significant upfront expense. But, over the last four years we’ve done a nice job of recouping those costs through marketing age and source verified cattle.
“Whether the Wyoming program is mandatory or voluntary, we will continue what we’re doing with animal identification because we like it. We have a computer chute-side and we can wand a tag and that cow’s history just appears. We know if she’s had any production issues or if she had a calf that died in the feedlot of brisket, and all those things we didn’t use to know. I’m not saying you can’t do the same thing with a normal tag, but it’s more complicated,” said Peltz.
George Page of Gillette posed questions he would like to see taken into consideration during the program development process. Bio-terrorism, voluntary versus mandatory, the length of the tag number and the problems that occurred in Europe with the Foot and Mouth outbreak were all points he brought to attendees’ attention.
Jim Magagna spoke on behalf of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, stating, “Our policy from the beginning has been unequivocal in opposition to a mandatory national identification system. It’s not that we don’t recognize a traceback system to be effective, but we want to know who mandates and operates the system.”
Magagna listed the, “4 C’s” essential to an animal identification program the Stock Growers would support. They include:
1. It is cost effective for producers
2. It provides for confidentiality
3. Allows for normal flow of commerce
4. Controlled by states but meets the needs of interstate commerce.
“Also, to the extent feasible, we support a program that relies on or ties in with the brand inspection system. We are silent as to whether we would support a mandatory state program. The closer we can come to meeting the 4 C’s, the more likely we are to support it,” concluded Magagna.
Scott Zimmerman of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union agreed with the Stock Growers policy.
“We also oppose any animal identification program that shifts from disease control to monitoring,” added Zimmerman.
“We feel strongly that it needs to be voluntary, simple and inexpensive to the producer. Identification wouldn’t be required until livestock were moved or sold off the original premises. The program also needs to include protection of liability from acts of others. As you move forward in the chain and the only form of identification is where the animal originally came from that original producer needs protection. Especially in cases where cattle are moved between six and eight people within three years,” added Brett Moline of Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation.
Taylor Haynes of ICOW agreed with the policies previously stated, adding that ICOW would support a livestock trace back system where all data was held by the state of Wyoming, creating a firewall.
As the discussion moves forward, points of interest will be determined and additional meetings will be held. Logan stated that if Wyoming went ahead with a program, it would probably require enabling legislation. If that occurs, the WLSB would then establish rules.
“We are looking at something that’s easily a year out. If it proceeds that would give people the opportunity to address it,” said Logan.