out of every 100 calves entering the marketing system, 15 are lost
Kris Ringwall, Beef Specialist
NDSU Extension Service
Tracing cattle is
a hot topic. There have been many coffee-table discussions on the relevancy
of the effort, but if a producer ponders the current state of affairs,
the beef industry is in relatively good shape.
Disasters could be in the making, but the more typical problems encountered
are man-made. The beef industry is no more or less at risk than any other
industry. While producers may feel somewhat vulnerable, the beef industry
needs to deal with the future in much the same manner as other industries.
How is the current beef industry doing? The answer to this question is
more relevant today than asking what the industry should do in the future.
The Dickinson Research Extension Center and the North Dakota Beef Cattle
Improvement Association implemented the CalfAID program in 2004. The goal
was to have a better understanding of the current state of the beef industry
regarding electronic cattle identification and the ability to actually
track cattle. The study has yielded considerable data and still is compiling
On the ability to trace cattle, two questions came up. How effectively
can the current system track cattle movement and how effective is the
electronic identification of individual calves?
In terms of the first question, the center, based on the expressed interest
following informational meetings and news releases, selected 25 producers
in North Dakota. The center worked 4,672 calves within these herds, traveling
After the calves were tagged, individual producers conducted business
as usual. The center’s team initiated trace-back efforts once the
calves were sold. To date, 1,430 miles have been logged and a total of
379 hours of personnel time have been spent tracking the 4,672 calves.
Tracking has involved extensive contact with producers, stockyards, brand
offices, buyers, backgrounders and feeders.
To date, 1,088 calves (23.3 percent of the 4,672 calves tagged) remain
with the producers as replacements. Of the remaining 3,584 calves, approximately
55 percent moved directly to their next destination, while 45 percent
moved through established marketing channels.
As these calves were
traced by the DREC, 955 calves (26.6 percent of the 3,584 marketed calves)
were moved into 23 backgrounding facilities and 2,090 calves (58.3 percent
of the 3,584 marketed calves) arrived at 25 different feedlots in several
states. Five calves (less than 0.1 percent) were slaughtered, and unaccounted
for are 534 calves (14.9 percent of 3,584 marketed calves).
Of the 25 herds, 15
herds were 100 percent traceable utilizing the existing systems available
to track cattle. Ten herds lost more than 33 percent of their calves entering
the marketing channels. Of the total 4,672 calves tagged, 88.6 percent
of all the calves tagged were located and 11.4 percent were unaccounted
for, additional efforts are underway to trace them.
The principle point of loss was during the marketing process. Calves simply
moved through or were commingled with larger groups of calves. Subsequently,
the ability to follow the calf to the next destination was not available
or not recorded.
The process shows that the current system of cattle tracking is working,
but is not 100 percent effective. At what point additional systems are
required is unknown. Additional diligence throughout the industry certainly
can cut down on the percentage of calves currently not accounted for.
Time will tell, coffee will be drunk, but for now, we do not yet have
data on 15 out of every 100 calves entering the marketing system.
May you find all
your USAIP ear tags.
Your comments are
always welcome at www.BeefTalk.com.
For more information, contact the North Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement
Association, 1133 State Avenue, Dickinson, ND 58601 or go to www.CHAPS2000.com
on the Internet. In correspondence about this column, refer to BT0235.
Ringwall, (701) 483-2427, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mattern, (701) 231-6136, email@example.com
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