Controversy continues on animal ID tags | TSLN.com

Controversy continues on animal ID tags

Katie Micik

DTN photo by Katie MicikAs cattle move along an alley at the Milwaukee Stockyards, their radio frequency identification tags are read by eight hidden boxes.

REESEVILLE, WI (DTN) – More than 100,000 cattle and 30,000 calves make their way through Milwaukee Stockyards each year after they are unloaded. As they move along a 7-foot-wide, 14-foot-long alley, nothing seems out of the ordinary.

Cattle slowly walk or race along, bump into their companions, turn a corner and enter a pen of bellowing beef.

But hidden behind the alley’s plywood walls on either side are eight boxes of electronics – four on each side – ready to read radio frequency identification tags on the ears of cattle that pass through.

It’s the first high-volume RFID reader in the country.

Gary Sutherland, the Wisconsin livestock market’s owner and manager, explained why eight boxes were needed. “I think quite often cattle do not tend to walk in a straight line,” he said. “They tend to bob and weave and everything else. So you take a maximum distance of 42 inches and somewhere in that 14 feet they’re getting closer.” The closer the cow gets to a reader, the more likely it will capture the identification number, called the 840 animal ID.

One of the criticisms of the National Animal Identification System, the USDA’s voluntary livestock identification and tracing program, is that tracking technology cannot stand up to the speed of commerce and still be accurate.

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Sutherland has used the high-volume reader for about five months, and it hasn’t encumbered his business a bit. “If I had to move these animals single file, it would slow up my process,” he said.

Once an evening, Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium (WLIC) director Robert Fourdraine logs onto a computer and downloads the list of numbers captured that day. WLIC manages the premises database (registration of premises is mandatory in Wisconsin), encourages the use of animal identification and keeps the tracing information from Milwaukee Stockyard’s reader.

Fourdraine and Sutherland estimate the reader captures 80 to 90 percent of the tags that pass through, and they get about 50 tag reads per week.

But before any tags can be read, they have to be attached to ears. At the NAIS listening sessions, which Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack held to garner input on how to make the program more successful, small cattle producers balked. The cost cuts into their thin margins and, for some, the technology is too far outside of their comfort zone.

For others, they have found the tags paid off.

Holyoke, CO cow/calf producer Roger Koberstein said he has used the electronic ID on his herd for the past five years and has found the tags add an average of $5 to $15 per cwt premium to marketed calves.

“On a 600-pound calf, which is generally what we sell in the fall, that’s a $30- to $90-a-head premium, and for a $2 investment in a tag, I think that’s a pretty darn good return,” he said.

REESEVILLE, WI (DTN) – More than 100,000 cattle and 30,000 calves make their way through Milwaukee Stockyards each year after they are unloaded. As they move along a 7-foot-wide, 14-foot-long alley, nothing seems out of the ordinary.

Cattle slowly walk or race along, bump into their companions, turn a corner and enter a pen of bellowing beef.

But hidden behind the alley’s plywood walls on either side are eight boxes of electronics – four on each side – ready to read radio frequency identification tags on the ears of cattle that pass through.

It’s the first high-volume RFID reader in the country.

Gary Sutherland, the Wisconsin livestock market’s owner and manager, explained why eight boxes were needed. “I think quite often cattle do not tend to walk in a straight line,” he said. “They tend to bob and weave and everything else. So you take a maximum distance of 42 inches and somewhere in that 14 feet they’re getting closer.” The closer the cow gets to a reader, the more likely it will capture the identification number, called the 840 animal ID.

One of the criticisms of the National Animal Identification System, the USDA’s voluntary livestock identification and tracing program, is that tracking technology cannot stand up to the speed of commerce and still be accurate.

Sutherland has used the high-volume reader for about five months, and it hasn’t encumbered his business a bit. “If I had to move these animals single file, it would slow up my process,” he said.

Once an evening, Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium (WLIC) director Robert Fourdraine logs onto a computer and downloads the list of numbers captured that day. WLIC manages the premises database (registration of premises is mandatory in Wisconsin), encourages the use of animal identification and keeps the tracing information from Milwaukee Stockyard’s reader.

Fourdraine and Sutherland estimate the reader captures 80 to 90 percent of the tags that pass through, and they get about 50 tag reads per week.

But before any tags can be read, they have to be attached to ears. At the NAIS listening sessions, which Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack held to garner input on how to make the program more successful, small cattle producers balked. The cost cuts into their thin margins and, for some, the technology is too far outside of their comfort zone.

For others, they have found the tags paid off.

Holyoke, CO cow/calf producer Roger Koberstein said he has used the electronic ID on his herd for the past five years and has found the tags add an average of $5 to $15 per cwt premium to marketed calves.

“On a 600-pound calf, which is generally what we sell in the fall, that’s a $30- to $90-a-head premium, and for a $2 investment in a tag, I think that’s a pretty darn good return,” he said.

REESEVILLE, WI (DTN) – More than 100,000 cattle and 30,000 calves make their way through Milwaukee Stockyards each year after they are unloaded. As they move along a 7-foot-wide, 14-foot-long alley, nothing seems out of the ordinary.

Cattle slowly walk or race along, bump into their companions, turn a corner and enter a pen of bellowing beef.

But hidden behind the alley’s plywood walls on either side are eight boxes of electronics – four on each side – ready to read radio frequency identification tags on the ears of cattle that pass through.

It’s the first high-volume RFID reader in the country.

Gary Sutherland, the Wisconsin livestock market’s owner and manager, explained why eight boxes were needed. “I think quite often cattle do not tend to walk in a straight line,” he said. “They tend to bob and weave and everything else. So you take a maximum distance of 42 inches and somewhere in that 14 feet they’re getting closer.” The closer the cow gets to a reader, the more likely it will capture the identification number, called the 840 animal ID.

One of the criticisms of the National Animal Identification System, the USDA’s voluntary livestock identification and tracing program, is that tracking technology cannot stand up to the speed of commerce and still be accurate.

Sutherland has used the high-volume reader for about five months, and it hasn’t encumbered his business a bit. “If I had to move these animals single file, it would slow up my process,” he said.

Once an evening, Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium (WLIC) director Robert Fourdraine logs onto a computer and downloads the list of numbers captured that day. WLIC manages the premises database (registration of premises is mandatory in Wisconsin), encourages the use of animal identification and keeps the tracing information from Milwaukee Stockyard’s reader.

Fourdraine and Sutherland estimate the reader captures 80 to 90 percent of the tags that pass through, and they get about 50 tag reads per week.

But before any tags can be read, they have to be attached to ears. At the NAIS listening sessions, which Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack held to garner input on how to make the program more successful, small cattle producers balked. The cost cuts into their thin margins and, for some, the technology is too far outside of their comfort zone.

For others, they have found the tags paid off.

Holyoke, CO cow/calf producer Roger Koberstein said he has used the electronic ID on his herd for the past five years and has found the tags add an average of $5 to $15 per cwt premium to marketed calves.

“On a 600-pound calf, which is generally what we sell in the fall, that’s a $30- to $90-a-head premium, and for a $2 investment in a tag, I think that’s a pretty darn good return,” he said.