A news story of interest that has been floating under the radar for cattle producers this spring is that the USDA announced that it will require cattle transported across state lines to carry a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag by 2023. At this time, cattle and animals moving directly to harvest will not be subject to those RFID requirements.
This last week, I received a newspaper in the mail, written on behalf of a cattle association group in Nebraska that was against this and bringing a resolution forward.
The argument for the resolution was the metal tags and hot iron brands are sufficient enough. I wonder if the writer of the resolution has ever shipped cattle across state lines in the middle of winter.
As I’ve said time after time, if a person wants to disagree with something, I’m willing to listen, but provide me with facts. I have a difficult time taking something serious when the facts show different.
A couple of years ago, I was running a herd of cattle on shares in Nevada. To go across state lines, every cow needed a metal tag. The cows ranged in age from 3-10, and I can tell you out of the group that I sent almost half needed to have their metal tags replaced by my vet.
Sure, the metal tag was still there in their ear, but the number had long since been wore off and was no longer readable. I was fortunate, as the metal tag was one of multiple forms of individual identification on that animal (including hot iron brand, dual panel tags, ear notch, and ear tattoo), because if that was my soul form, it would have been a shot in the dark what cows I was actually sending.
Metal tags play a part in the resolution, but let’s head over to the discussion on hot iron brands. Yes, I brand my cattle. Yes, I believe that a brand can be a sign of ownership. Though I will tell you a waste of my time and money is when I have an inspector come out in the middle of winter, and I have to tell him or her what brand is on the cattle, as the hair is so long that you can’t actually identify what brand it is. One brand inspector said it best, “it comes down to trust.”
Can brands be blotched or branded over? Absolutely they can! Which is why I get so irritated with people when they say the brand is the only form of permanent ID. Yes, it’s more challenging to manipulate, but it can be done.
Nebraska received a grant a couple of years ago for producers who were interested in using EID tags instead of metal tags during bang’s vaccinations. We took advantage of this and choose to put in the EID tags instead of the metal tags, as we were already using the EID tags prior and it saved us the hassle of having both.
Do we lose EID tags? Absolutely, we do, but surprisingly it’s less than .10 percent/year and we just retag those for our own records. I’ve also had to replace metal tags, and I’ve also seen brands I can’t read.
The point of all of this is, sometimes we miss out on progress because we have our heads buried in the sand. Am I OK with the government having my information? I guess, what’ll really be different than what they have now? When I transport cattle now — for the states that I’ve gone into — those cattle have to have a metal tag, and those metal tag numbers are on the health paper, which is in the state filing system.
I’ve also heard complaints on costs, as the cost of the RFID tags are to be carried by the producers, or will they? There’s already been talks in the work to provide producers RFID tags at reduced or no costs, so I’m struggling why this is necessarily a bad thing.
At the end of the day, maybe we should start thinking a little more outside of the box in our operations, or realize that if we really analyze something, does it make as much sense to be for/against it as we thought?
Let me leave you with a thought. When we were preg checking this last fall, I had an EID reader that was Bluetoothed to my Nomad handheld that I was using to enter data. These were the EIDs that our vet provided when we bang’s vaccinated. When we finished up, for some reason, I had this thought process go through my head — my four-legged holy terror has a microchip. I called Jemma over and scanned her with my reader, and all be dang if her chip ID didn’t show up on my reader. Makes one stop to think, why can’t we be looking to advance technology to implant microchips in food animals? It’d be a more permanent solution, maybe it’ll make one stop to think.
Jaclyn Wilson is more than a rancher, raising Red Angus cattle at Wilson Ranch near Lakeside, Neb. She’s an artist with a welder’s torch. She holds leadership positions with several agriculture organizations. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.