Sunday, February 13, 2011

Rules aren't always bad.

Many ranchers in Canada were up in arms when it became mandatory that we give our livestock permanent identification tags.  I think for the most part they weren't against the idea of permanent ID but that once again the producers were the ones that were responsible for all of the costs.  Although the paper work can be confusing for some producers that don't use a computer often.  The process of printing a birth certificate for your cattle when they change ownership is really quite simple. 

In the 1800's nearly all producers used a hot brand to identify their stock.  Although if a cow changed hands many times she could be quite branded up. 

Freeze brands look great especially on black cattle, but are very time consuming to do. 

When I first visited Australia I was intrigued with their ear notching.  The owner would cut a specific shape out of the ear when the animal was a young age.  It could be a V in the bottom of the right ear or something similar.  From a distance you could tell the owner as neighbors had different notches. 

Identification had come into the modern age with RFID  tags.  These can be read with a hand held scanner or a scanner at a auction mart.  We seen one of the most up to date systems when we visited the Hamilton Sale yards in Victoria, Australia.

With the resent natural disasters in Australia, miles of fence were destroyed. We had friends that had over 10 miles of fence to repair and initially had no idea where all of their stock was.  Stock fled the flooded paddocks and ended up who knows where.  Here is a great article by  George Luker from his blog.                              .
 Australia’s National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) is adding more value and purpose beyond its original intent of tracking cattle diseases. Identifying cattle and livestock that have wandered off of farms is being done, quickly and efficiently since they are tagged with RFID ear tags.

Cyclone Yasi that hit and went through north Queensland last week caused so much destruction in the small town and rural area. In the path of destruction are many farms, which have had fences and posts damaged by the cyclone. With the added damages all around, are wandering livestock in the streets and on properties of fellow farmers and neighbors.

The National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) is helping in the recovery of wandering and stranded livestock, which now roam freely along streets, fields, and farms. Since all livestock like cattle and sheep have mandatory RFID ear tags, it is making identification of individual animals that much easier, and livestock are being returned to their rightful owners and farm of origin.

RFID ear tags provide tamper proof identification, which cannot be manipulated, providing secure and reliable identification of livestock. Cattle and sheep have typical EID button tags, while horses have an implanted microchip for equine identification. All these different type of RFID tags provide the exact same purpose, unique identification.

With natural disasters like cyclone Yasi that has hit Australia, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology along with a national database is proof that the system works. Australian cattlemen begin to round up livestock after cyclone Yasi.

With the cattle recovery in process, this opens a Pandora’s Box on a possible animal disease epidemic. State veterinarians will be monitoring all livestock closely over the next few months for signs of diseases in cattle and sheep.
I know if something similar happened here in Canada.  I would be able to eventually get my stock back, because of the RFID tags.  Canada is one step ahead of our cattleman friends to the south by making this mandatory.  Now all of our beef is identified by herd of origin and by age.  This has started to open up new markets for us.
Although I do think everyone involved in the meat industry should have shared the initial costs.  It is good to see our governments pitching in for the upgraded technology so that the costs are not just handed down to the producer.

Canadian beef producers are very fortunate that we have not been placed in a situation where large numbers of stock have to be identified and returned to their owners.  I know that it was scary in the beginning with the Canadian Identification Agency being formed and who would own all of this information.  But I think this is one mandatory program that is going to work out for the best.

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