Traceability and Animal Identification

Cattle farmers have been identifying their animals in various ways ever since humans have owned livestock. And while ear notches and brands are still necessary and useful today, technology has improved to the point that animal identification can be a management information tool as well as an indication of ownership.

Keeping records on herd rearing conditions and performance is an important management tool and can be used to increase efficiency in livestock farming. Monitoring of information on weight gain, reproduction and mortality, as well as on the use of products (vaccines, medicines, food, etc.) and on the conditions of facilities and equipment allow producers to evaluate the performance of their herds, control management procedures and identify critical points that need to be controlled. In this way, it is easier to identify and solve the problems that occur in day-to-day work on a beef cattle farm.

A study was conducted by Beef Magazine and, when asked what form of ranch-wide animal identification cattle farmers use, the majority, at 70%, use dangle ear tags, and 47.2% use a hot iron brand. Totals add up to more than 100% because of multiple responses.

As far as why readers use ranch-wide animal identification, 83.8% say for management and 70.5% say to indicate ownership. Theft deterrence was important for 51.6%; 26.6% indicate they do it for marketing; 19.1% to comply with verification or value-added programs; and 15.9% to comply with government cattle health programs. Totals add up to more than 100% because of multiple responses.

When it comes to individual ID, 87% say yes when asked if they have a system to individually and separately identify animals. Only a small minority, 13%, say no.

Management was far and away the reason that cattle farmers use individual and separate animal ID, garnering a 91.9% response. Ownership indication came in at 54.5%, followed by theft deterrence at 32.7%, marketing at 31.2%, compliance with verification or value-added programs at 18.8%, compliance with government cattle health programs at 13.2%, and “other” at 4.3%. Total add up to more than 100% because of multiple responses.

Here we can see again, that management is the major reason why cattle farmers use animal identification. Marketing, compliance with value-added programs and government cattle health programs all together sum up 63.2%, which means that cattle farmers are also aware of other possibilities for developing their farms.

For those who don’t individually and separately ID their cattle, 51.5% say that brands and Bangs tags are good enough. Another 21.6% want to know who is going to pay for it, and 16.1% say who they sell their cattle to is nobody else’s business.

There are plenty of Traceability Systems in the world available that cattle producers can research and follow best practices. In fact, when asked if they would favor a animal ID and traceability system that could track individual animals throughout their lives, 58% of respondents say yes, while 42% say no.

Cattle traceability and identification it is also seen as a better chance to enter more foreign markets, help with consumer transparency, and add value to calves. Altogether, the majority of the cattle farmers that do not support animal ID and traceability wonder who will pay for it.

We don’t know what the future brings, however we know that the consumer wants to access information quickly, to know from where its meat comes from and wants the supplier to be transparent, and sooner or later all the parties responsible for the meat chain will need to adapt.

Note. Reproduced and adapted from Beef Magazine – BEEF readers split on animal ID


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