Cattle industry urges against mandatory ID

From Tri-State Livestock News:

Cattle producers, veterinarians, sale barn operators and others involved in the cattle industry encouraged the federal government not to implement any kind of mandatory individual identification for feeder cattle 18 months of age and younger.

That was the message that Wayne Gerbig, Amidon, North Dakota, rancher heard at the Billings, Montana, U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service hearing May 24. The North Dakota Stockmen’s Association board member said that the two most important and most common messages shared during the public hearing were:

1 – USDA was encouraged to not pursue a mandatory identification program for breeding cattle or feeder cattle

2 – hot branding and the use of brand inspection and shippers permits are still viable forms of identification

“As important as it is to do our part, we don’t think they need to mandate it for all feeder cattle. We need to step back and see what’s working

— a lot of things are working. I think the view of the group, especially producers, is that there is enough opportunity with voluntary identification to meet the export demand. I felt like that was definitely the majority opinion of the producers at the meeting.” Race King, Dillon, Mont., rancher

The USDA APHIS hosted listening sessions in Oklahoma, Maryland, Tennessee, Minnesota, Denver, California and Billings to obtain public comment on the current Animal Disease Traceability system in order to determine what changes might be needed in the future.

Two upcoming meetings were recently added to the original lineup:

Omaha, Nebraska, July 18: Embassy Suites Omaha Downtown; and Fort Worth, Texas, July 20, Dallas/Fort Worth Marriott Hotel & Golf Club at Champions Circle. Producers are encouraged to attend those meetings to share their experiences and thoughts regarding a national animal identification program.

In 2012, USDA lowered the age at which sexually intact breeding cattle moving interstate required individual identification – from 24 months to 18 months of age. In this, “Phase two” USDA indicated it was interested in tracking all cattle that move interstate, including feeder cattle.

The final USDA hearing, in Billings, included an industry panel with a sale barn operator a purebred operator, a sale barn vet, and Race King, a Dillon, Montana, rancher who runs a yearling outfit.

King said his family, who operates within a designated surveillance area (DSA) in southwest Montana, began using individual electronic identification for their cattle to comply with state requirements. The DSAs exist to attempt to track breeding cattle from the areas of Montana most affected by brucellosis from wildlife – both elk and buffalo.

The Montana Stockgrowers member said the state compensates his ranch for some of the testing costs required within the DSA, and for some of the tagging costs as well. But the King Ranch has “embraced” the electronic identification program and now finds it useful for their own herd recordkeeping.

“We have made it work in our operation. We’ve adopted several ways of using the technology to make us better managers and marketers. We are now purchasing tags on our own,” he said, and added that his heifers don’t get a metal bangs tag when they are vaccinated and tattooed – the electronic identification tag takes the place of the bangs tag.

“Our premise is registered so those tag numbers are associated with our ranch.”

The Kings are involved in programs that require individual traceback identification, and that often offer premiums, but these programs are about more than just a button in the ear, he said.

“It’s not just tagging,” he said, adding that different programs call for different management strategies.

All of the benefits his ranch has experienced aside, King said he does not believe a mandatory tagging protocol for America’s feeder cattle is a good idea, and his family still utilizes hot branding and the state’s brand inspection program.

“As important as it is to do our part, we don’t think they need to mandate it for all feeder cattle. We need to step back and see what’s working – a lot of things are working. I think the view of the group, especially producers, is that there is enough opportunity for voluntary identification to meet the export demand. I felt like that was definitely the majority opinion of the producers at the meeting.”

Montana Stockgrowers Association Executive Vice President Errol Rice said his group doesn’t support a mandatory tagging requirement but would like to see USDA work in tandem with operators who are already utilizing traceback identification, or those who are interested in it, to develop some standardized government traceback protocols.

“If we do get hit with another disease outbreak, that way we’ve got a critical mass of feeder cattle that are under identification that could be made available for export markets,” said Rice. His group hopes this system would keep other countries from banning U.S. beef in the case of future disease outbreaks.

Gerbig said that he learned from other presenters that the electronic button tags have improved substantially. He said Joe Goggins, owner of the two Billings livestock auction barns and Vermilion Angus, testified that the electronic tags – in use in his purebred operation – are much less likely to fall out than earlier versions.

Goggins also explained that electronic identification would severely impede commerce during the fall run at his sale barn because, contrary to industry hopes that a truckload or a ring full of cattle could just be “swiped,” in reality each animal has to be run down a chute or individually caught in a head catch in order for the tags to be read.

There is still a good market for “source verified” cattle, although premiums are smaller than when they were newer, Gerbig said he learned in the meeting, due to more producers getting involved. He said that producers can’t just buy an electronic tag – which average around $2.50 for the basic kind – and expect a premium. He believes producers will need to get involved in a program and follow expected protocol throughout the year in order to qualify for a premium.

Read more at TSLN.com.

Powerful Voices Set Tone for AgChat Foundation’s Pacific Northwest Agvocacy Conference

agchat foundationHarrisburg, OR – The AgChat Foundation will host the 2nd Annual Pacific Northwest Regional Agvocacy conference at Northern Quest Resort and Casino in Spokane, WA, April 27-28. Attendees who register before March 20th will receive an early bird discount. The Foundation, known for providing high-quality, agriculture advocacy training to farmers, ranchers, agribusiness professionals, media and educators, will once again deliver a selection of sessions focusing on strengthening online relationships while fostering offline communications with consumers.

The conference will open with motivational keynote speaker, mom and North Dakota agvocate, Katie Pinke. A household name for bridging common ground in even the most difficult conversations, Pinke will share her experiences, purpose, insight and set a tone for understanding on all sides of the kitchen table.

Attendees can expect to learn about tips, strategies and hacks for efficient advocating and utilizing community to share their farm and ranch stories via Instagram and Pinterest. Emphasis will be placed on building communication when interacting with detractors or facing crisis situations. Additionally, they will be provided hands-on training for blogging, Twitter and other social media platforms. The event will offer the experience to network with fellow farmers, ranchers, mentors and advocates while also interacting with a consumer panel.

The event will provide the tools which will equip all to advocate for agriculture. Keynote speaker Michele Payn-Knoper, ACF board member and author of ‘No More Food Fights,’ will close by inspiring and infusing the audience with a passion for telling the story of agriculture.

“Farmers and ranchers in the pacific northwest and all across the U.S., have a unique story to tell and we are the only ones who can tell it accurately and authentically. Attending an AgChat Foundation event will provide purpose, tools and a network for successfully communicating with consumers,” says AgChat Foundation Vice-President, Marie Bowers of Harrisburg, OR.

For additional information, visit AgChat.org/PNW. Sponsorship opportunities will be available until mid-March. Inquiries should be sent to Jenny Schweigert, Executive Director by emailing execdir@agchat.org.

Beef Checkoff Launches Masters of Beef Advocacy (MBA) 2.0

beef checkoff logoThe beef checkoff’s Masters of Beef Advocacy (MBA) program has launched MBA 2.0, an opportunity for beef and dairy producers to step up and be true leaders – ‘Agvocates’, if you will – for the industry and all of agriculture. Building on the success of the original MBA courses, with nearly 6,000 graduates to date, the program hinges on the importance for consumers to hear directly from those growing and delivering their food to them.

“The new MBA 2.0 is the next exciting step towards expanding the advocacy horizons of all those involved in the beef community, from pasture to plate,” said Brandi Buzzard Frobose, MBA Director of Outreach. “Ranchers, industry stakeholders, chefs and retailers alike can benefit from the new lessons and I hope that MBA 2.0 inspires all beef community members to step out of their comfort zone and engage in real conversations with consumers.”

Each new course takes about an hour to complete and follows the beef lifecycle:

  • The Beef Community – all about the people involved in producing beef, from pasture to plate.
  • Raising Cattle on Grass – covering the cow/calf and stocker/backgrounder stages of production.
  • Life in the Feedyard – what goes into ensuring cattle receive proper care and a healthy diet in the finishing phase.
  • From Cattle to Beef – how cattle are humanely slaughtered and processed into beef products.
  • Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner. – consumer information about how to properly store, handle and cook beef to ensure a safe and enjoyable eating experience.

“When I started to get asked questions from consumers and groups about how we farm and feed cattle, I was struggling to find answers that I could back up with hard facts, and it felt like I also needed to learn more about other sectors of the industry with which I had little experience,” says Joan Ruskamp, Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) member from Dodge, Neb.

“When I found out about the MBA program, I jumped at the chance to complete the courses. For me, it turned out to be a great teaching tool to help me become an informed advocate – not just for my own family’s benefit, but for the good of the entire industry.

“Since then, I have had the opportunity to talk about beef and the beef industry to everyone from neighbors and friends to large groups of activists. Remember, though, getting your MBA doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to start booking appearances as a traveling speaker,” says Ruskamp. “It also prepares you well for daily conversations that you have or hear, and it gives you the ability to share hard facts and figures that help increase confidence in our end product and our industry. While our personal stories are important in putting a face on our industry, the ability to build trust in farming and ranching – and beef – is greatly enhanced by facts versus opinions and emotions.”

Those individuals who completed the original MBA courses will remain enrolled in the program and can take the 2.0 classes to update their certificate. MBA grads then have the opportunity to join the private Facebook group where they can have interaction and dialogue about emerging industry issues.

Ruskamp and fellow Cattlemen’s Beef Board member Brenda Black of Missouri have challenged every CBB member to join them in completing MBA 2.0.

“I earned my MBA during the initial run of the program and am working on completion of the updated program with all of you who accept this challenge,” says Black. “From my experience, I can tell you that the courses are truly interesting, engaging and informative, which make the quizzes at the end of each section a breeze. And you come away with a clear and useful understanding of issues that are so important to consumers and, as a result, important for us to share with them.”

The MBA program is funded by the beef checkoff and there is no cost to participate. Sign up to start your MBA 2.0 coursework today!

For more information about your beef checkoff investment, visit MyBeefCheckoff.com.