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.


Western Montana Ranchers Elected to Stockgrowers Board of Directors

Race King of Dillon joins the MSGA Board as Western District Director

Race King of Dillon joins the MSGA Board as Western District Director

At the 130th Annual Montana Stockgrowers Association Convention and Trade Show last month, members elected two new ranchers to the MSGA Board of Directors. Race King of Dillon will join the 13-member Board for a two-year term, representing the Western Montana district; a seat previously held by Ray Marxer of Twin Bridges. Bryan Mussard of Dillon was elected at 1st Vice President.

Race King manages the LaCense ranch near Dillon. He and his wife, Rochelle, have four children, Cache (22), Carly (20), Carson (18) and Coby (14).

“My wife and I were both raised on livestock operations and we desired the opportunity to raise our children in that same environment,” says Race. “We feel truly blessed to have been able to spend our entire lives working with livestock and the great people in our communities. I’m grateful to be able to work alongside my family and watch them develop a passion for this great business and the way of life it provides us all.”

When asked what are the major challenges the beef industry will face in the next 10 years, Race recognized the ranching community’s need to focus on federal regulations, resource management and employee development.

Bryan Mussard was elected as first Vice President on the Stockgrowers Board of Directors. Bryan and wife Marcia have raised six children and operate Reminisce Angus near Dillon. Bryan has been actively involved in the commercial feeding business for 40 years. Today, his operation weans, backgrounds, and develops cattle, collecting genetic data for customers through the Tracker marketing program. Bryan also manages ranches through the Big West Management Program.

Bryan Mussard, Second Vice President

Bryan Mussard of Dillon was elected as 1st Vice President on the MSGA Board

Ray Marxer of Twin Bridges is the outgoing representative for the Western District on the MSGA Board of Directors. Marxer was elected in 2010 and has represented ranchers in Western Montana for two consecutive terms. Ray, along with his wife Sue, worked on the Matador Ranch for 37 years, where he retired as manager in 2011. Ray remains active in the livestock community through consulting and involvement in area youth and fair programs.

Other changes to the Montana Stockgrowers Board of Directors include Tucker Hughes of Stanford completing his term as President. Gene Curry of Valier was elected as President, while Fred Wacker of Miles City joins the MSGA officer team as second Vice President and Jess Drange of Ismay joins as Director, representing Southeastern Montana ranchers.

The Montana Stockgrowers Association meets annually to discuss and vote on policy measures, which guide the Association in representing its members on local, state and federal issues. To learn more about Stockgrowers programs or membership, visit or contact the office in Helena, (406) 442-3420.