USDA and Corporate Agribusiness Continue to Push Animal ID Scheme

Consumers and Independent Producers Lose if Big Ag Wins on Animal Traceability

Source: The Cornucopia Institute, Mark Kastel – June 21, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is expected to issue its new proposed rule for mandatory animal traceability very shortly. While USDA already has traceability requirements as part of existing animal disease control programs, the proposed framework goes much further to require animal tagging and tracing even absent any active disease threat. The framework has raised significant concerns among family farm and ranch advocates, who criticize the agency for failing to provide a coherent, factual explanation for the new program’s necessity.

“USDA brags about the success of past programs, but has abandoned the principles that made them successful,” argued Bill Bullard of R-CALF USA. “Past programs were based on sound science and were developed in response to the transmission, treatment, and elimination of specific identified diseases. USDA’s new approach is a one-size-fits-all approach that does not specifically aim at the control of livestock diseases.”

The USDA has presented its traceability scheme as an animal health program, but it has also reiterated the importance of the export market to the United States in promoting its new plan. The powerful meatpacking lobby has continued to push for such mandated traceability requirements in order to develop international standards for exports. Critics have suggested this is not in the American public’s best interest, however, since the U.S. is a net importer of beef and cattle and the profits from the export market go to a small handful of massive meatpacking companies.

“Factory farms can easily absorb the added economic burdens, and the meatpacking industry stands to benefit from a marketing standpoint,” asserted Judith McGeary, a livestock farmer and executive director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance. “However, the extra expenses and labor will fall disproportionately on family farmers and ranchers, accelerating the loss of independent businesses to corporate industrial-scale producers.”

“Consumers need the USDA to start focusing on the animal health and food safety risks posed by industrialized meat production,” said Patty Lovera of Food & Water Watch. “If USDA devoted as much energy to preventing animal diseases as it has to promoting animal tracking, our food system would be in much better shape.”

Many cattle organizations agree that tracing breeding-age cattle may be appropriate for efficient disease control, but USDA’s proposal goes far beyond that by calling for the identification of every cow that crosses state lines, including feeder cattle that are processed at a young age. Because of the sheer numbers of feeder cattle, this requirement could unduly burden small ranchers and sales barns and further erode competition in the marketplace.

“The large volume of the animals that USDA proposes to track could overwhelm the capabilities of state agencies, making it impossible to retrieve useful data if there is in fact a disease outbreak,” stated Gilles Stockton, a Montana rancher and member of the Western Organization of Resource Councils.

Additionally, the centuries-old tradition of hot-iron branding cattle would be demoted from an official identification device. “The brand is a part of our ranching heritage and a long accepted method of animal identification,” stated Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont, in a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.

A coalition of farm, ranch and consumer groups urges citizens to contact their Congressional representatives and the USDA with their concern that mandatory animal traceability helps only a few giant corporations, at the expense of American family farmers and consumers.

“If Americans don’t want their food supply to cave like the banking and housing industries, it’s time to take action,” stated Mark Kastel of The Cornucopia Institute.- 30-

MORE

Additional contact information:

Judith McGeary, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, 512-484-8821

Bill Bullard, R-CALF USA, 406-252-2516

Patty Lovera, Food & Water Watch, 202-683-2465

Gilles Stockton, Western Organization of Resource Councils, 406-366-4463

The Cornucopia Institute PO Box 126 Cornucopia, WI 54827 www.cornucopia.org

ID Scheme

Go

Go

SAN ANGELO, Texas — Since a new framework for animal disease traceability was introduced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture last year, cattle raisers have been up in arms for fear that the centuries-old hot-iron branding methods may be on the way out.

Instead, the USDA wants every cow to have a unique numerical ID, stamped on an inexpensive ear tag, to make it easier to track animals from the ranch to feedlots and the slaughterhouse.

Even as the USDA says it never set out to undermine the traditional brand, cattlemen feel that when the government steps in it will make things more complex. They also fear the withdrawal of federal support for branding might embolden animal-rights activists who call the practice barbaric.

The new rules set to replace the National Animal Identification System were strongly opposed by numerous livestock industries and associations, including Fort Worth-based Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.

Although Western movies showing cowboys branding cattle with a hot iron have created the image that the practice started in the Old West, documented history gives verification the practice goes back thousands of years to the days of the ancient Greeks, Arabians, Romans and Egyptians.

Branding was actually introduced to the New World in 1541 by Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez. Branding of cattle became common in the United States after the Civil War. It was said that brands of every shape and design were on Longhorns coming out of Texas during the great trail drives of the 1800s.

Brands are registered in Texas by the county clerk of the county in which a rancher runs livestock. The brand must be registered by the county clerk for the brand to be considered a legal means of ownership. Texas brands have to be re-registered every 10 years.

When I worked for The Cattleman magazine in Fort Worth during the mid-1960s, a favorite assignment was visiting the brand department to research histories of cattle brands. The brands allow TSCRA special rangers quick identification of stolen cattle.

The cattle raisers association has 29 special rangers stationed strategically throughout Texas and Oklahoma who have in-depth knowledge of the cattle industry and are trained in facets of law enforcement. All are commissioned as special rangers by the Texas Department of Public Safety and Oklahoma’s law enforcement agency.

TSCRA market inspectors aid the special rangers by collecting brands and other identifying marks on 4 million to 5 million cattle sold at 115 livestock markets each year. The market inspectors report their findings to TSCRA’s Fort Worth headquarters, where the information is entered in a database retrieval system. It is that database a special ranger checks when receiving a theft call.

“Branding’s the simplest, most efficient way to do it. Why change?” Wil Bledsoe, a Hugo, Colo., rancher, recently told the Wall Street Journal.

“It is a great deal easier in court when stolen animals are fire branded. Prosecutors prefer to try cases where the animals have been branded,” said Scott Williamson of Seymour, a TSCRA special ranger.

Modern cattle rustlers would delight in the current highly promoted electronic ID. Any cattle rustler could easily remove, replace, change and/or cut off ear tags and electronic pins.

The goal of the new USDA framework should be to enable the cattle industry, state and federal animal health officials to respond rapidly and effectively to animal health emergencies, say TSCRA officials.

Cattle raisers remain engaged with state and federal animal health officials to ensure that any animal disease traceability program is solely for the purpose of responding rapidly and effectively to animal health emergencies and does not affect ranchers’ ability to market cattle, officials said.

Jerry Lackey writes about agriculture. Contact him at jlackey@wcc.net or 325-949-2291.

Editor Comment:  Rumblings from US cattle producers over USDA removing branding, their time tested tool to prevent cattle rustling, has reached the businss ears at WALL STREET JOURNAL.  This article articulates the problem, yet straddles the fence of detail and fact.  First, the “inexpensive ear tag” mentioned costs from $7 to $26 per critter and in Australian tests over 32% are lost or destroyed within two years.  As the USDA promotes expensive electronic ear tag devices, no removable ear tag in history has held up in a court of law for livestock title — yet hot iron brands are permanent and conclusive.  Take a lesson from history, not a temporary attachment. USDA plastic-removable animal ID is “flawed thought” and WSJ knows it!

Video

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The Bledsoe family and other ranchers across the West are resisting new government rules stating that branding will no longer be recognized as an official form of identification for interstate commerce. WSJ’s Stephanie Simon reports from Hugo, Colo.

HUGO, Colo.—In the chill of a damp spring morning, rancher Wil Bledsoe pressed two red-hot branding irons to the flank of a bellowing young calf. The smell of burning hair filled the barn.

When Mr. Bledsoe lifted the irons, the calf jumped up, wobbled a moment, then scampered back to his herd, a frying-pan logo seared into his shaggy hide.

Branding day has unfolded this way for generations on ranches all across the West. But ranchers from Colorado to Oregon, from Montana to Texas, worry that the tradition is under threat. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced plans to rewrite its regulations so that hot-iron brands will no longer be recognized as an official form of identification for cattle sold or shipped across state lines.

Instead, the USDA wants every cow to have a unique numerical ID, stamped on an inexpensive ear tag, to make it easier to track animals from ranch to feedlot to slaughterhouse.

Branding Day at the Bledsoe Ranch

[SB10001424052702304066504576341754012316080]J.D. Schier watches cows walk into a different pen during a morning of branding on the Bledsoe ranch outside Hugo, Colo.

The proposed regulation won’t bar ranchers from branding their livestock. Individual states will be free to recognize brands as official ID if they so choose. And some ranchers who have tried the numerical IDs say they are no hassle and can actually be an asset, as they allow more detailed record-keeping on each individual cow or steer.

“It’s worked real well for us,” said Alex Johns, a resource director for the Seminole tribe of Florida, which has used bar-code ID tags for several years under a USDA pilot program. Mr. Johns said the tags helped the tribe sell their cattle at a premium price, as buyers had confidence the animals were tracked closely from birth and any health concerns noted and addressed. Keeping genetic records on heifers’ ID tags, he added, helped manage breeding programs to ensure birthing season brought healthy calves.

Nonetheless, ranchers across the West are up in arms.

The new rules, which the USDA will publish in draft form within weeks and which are scheduled to take effect in about a year, threaten “the United States cattle industry’s iconic, centuries-old, hot-iron brand,” a national coalition of cattle ranchers, known as R-Calf, wrote in a letter to the USDA. Rep. Dennis Rehberg, a Montana Republican and fifth-generation rancher, filed a similar protest.

Ranchers say they fear the withdrawal of federal support for branding might embolden animal-rights activists who call the practice barbaric. Some ranchers fear the new rules could even erode the legal standing of the brand as proof of ownership in cases of lost or stolen cattle.

The USDA says it never set out to undermine the traditional brand. Officials say the ID system will let them respond quickly if a diseased animal shows up in the meat production cycle, allowing them to track down other animals that a sick steer came into contact with.

Such track-backs have proved difficult for the USDA in the past. In 2003, 2005 and 2006, animals infected with mad-cow disease surfaced in the U.S. In each case, investigators had limited success identifying or locating livestock that might have been exposed to the sick cattle.

But branding advocates say none of the three animals was marked after birth with a registered brand from a U.S. ranch. One had been imported from Canada, one had no identification at all, and the third was traced to a Texas ranch that “kept very few herd records,” a USDA report on the case said.

Bill Bullard, chief executive officer of R-Calf, said tracing the animals would have been far easier had they been marked with an indelible brand, which, unlike an ear tag, cannot fall off or be cut out. Insisting that every one of the nation’s 93 million cattle has its own ID is “unnecessary, overly burdensome regulatory overreach,” he said.

Branding, brought to the New World in the 1500s by Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez, is today common across states like New Mexico, Texas and Wyoming. The marks can be seen from a distance and help ranchers settle ownership disputes when cattle trample fences and mix with a neighbor’s herd. Many states keep a registry of brands, so there won’t be two ranchers using the same Lazy J or Triple Dot. State brand inspectors say the practice also deters rustling, as thieves can’t remove the identifying mark.

And on many ranches, branding day is a communal affair. “The cultural tradition can’t be overemphasized,” said Taylor Haynes, a fourth-generation rancher outside Cheyenne, Wyo.

On the Bledsoe ranch in Eastern Colorado, family members spent a morning castrating, vaccinating and branding calves in practiced motions that took just 60 to 90 seconds an animal.

“When government steps in, they like to make things more complex,” Mr. Bledsoe said. “Branding’s the simplest, most efficient way to do it. Why change?”

Write to Stephanie Simon at stephanie.simon@wsj.com

Note:Sec Vilsack knows that 16% of the US 2010 consumed beef was imported. He knows that for the last 21 years the USA has not produced enough beef to feed the nation. Why then, pray tell, does he think it is important to export beef to China, much of which has to be purchased outside the USA? Why would the marble halls of USDA contain people so far removed from the real world to assume it commercially feasable to force mandatory electronic ear tags on nearly a hundred million US cattle just to sell a few ocean containers of beef to China? Who comes up with this math? The cattle ID enforcement brain-child is not about exporting! It is not about livestock disease!

–Editor

Inside U.S. Trade

Daily News

Vilsack Indicates New Traceability Rule Will Help Exports, But Exact Impact Unclear

Posted: May 23, 2011

A soon-to-be-released proposed rule from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) imposing a mandatory animal traceability system will help win more market access for U.S. meat producers by enhancing the ability of the U.S. government to respond to an animal disease outbreak, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said at a May 12 House Agriculture Committee hearing.

“One of the concerns that we often hear from our trading partners is [about] the capacity to basically trace back at least to the state of origin any problem with animal health, which is why this traceability system is important,” Vilsack said.

Only about 30 percent of cattle producers participate in the current, voluntary traceability system, Vilsack said, and the current system does not “provide us the certainty and the guarantee” that the new system will. “So we think we’re going to get much more acceptance from this effort, and that should reassure our trading partners,” he said.

One meat packing industry source agreed that a comprehensive traceability system is important to expanding exports of beef to the European Union, which has so many information requirements for imports that traceability while not expressly required is necessary nevertheless. A mandatory system could enable more companies to ship there, he said.

Japan, which currently restricts access to its market to U.S. beef exports from cattle younger than 20 months, may be more willing to further open its beef market in light of a new, mandatory traceability system, this source said, because the United States could argue it is better equipped to deal with any animal health problem.

While the new system is intended to be comprehensive and mandatory, it is unclear whether it would meet the demands of all U.S. trade partners.

For instance, China has demanded that the United States implement a system that allows cattle to be traced back not only to their state of origin, but to the farm where they were born. China has said the United States must meet this condition before it will accept beef imports from the United States (Inside U.S. Trade,Nov. 12).

A spokeswoman for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) would not comment on whether the new proposal would be able to meet that requirement. She also would not give a more firm timeline for the proposal’s release than the one offered by Vilsack, who said it would be published by “late spring or early summer.”

But there are signs that the program would not go as far on traceability as China has demanded.

While mandatory, the new program will only apply to animals moving interstate, as these animals pose the biggest risk for spreading disease nationwide, according to a March USDA report giving the initial outlines of the proposal.

Before cattle are moved and sold across state lines, they will be affixed with a tag that bears a code indicating the state or American Indian tribe of origin and a unique numeric identifier. The state or tribe where the animal originated will then be responsible for maintaining detailed information of the animal’s origin.

This means that, in the case of a disease outbreak, it could be traced back tothe farm from which it came.

But Bill Bullard, CEO of the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF), said in an interview that while the system strengthens the government’s current ability to conduct trace-backs, it will likely not enable the government to trace back all cattle to their place of birth.

For example, if a cow changed hands several times within a state before being moved across state lines, state records would reflect only the farm where the cow was held last. That said, authorities could rely upon brands or other records kept by ranchers to trace the animal back to its farm of origin in these instances, Bullard said.

In the case of a cow that was raised and slaughtered in the same state and never moved to another, it is possible that no records would be kept under the new system. So-called “slick cows,” those with no brands and no ear tag, could also cause potential identification problems if record-keeping was not detailed, Bullard acknowledged.

So could a cow whose ear tag had fallen off, he added one reason his organization is pushing USDA to maintain the hot-iron brand as a recognized form of official identification.

The focus of the program is cattle, although it will also include changes to the way horses and poultry are tracked; regulations on swine, along with sheep and goats, will not be affected, according to the USDA report.

According to a spokeswoman for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the new rule will be announced on the APHIS homepage and posted on Regulations.gov for a 60-day comment period.

“Once the comment period has closed, no comments will be accepted,” the spokeswoman said. “Consideration and response [to] all submitted comments will appear in the final rule 12 to 15 months after the close of the comment period.”

Bullard said the forthcoming proposal addresses the primary criticisms of the failed National Animal Identification System program (NAIS): that a traceability system would violate ranchers’ confidentiality and leave them unfairly exposed to liability suits in cases of food poisoning. They had also worried about the cost of the program.

The new proposal solves these issues by storing information in databases at the state level or with tribes, rather than at the federal level, where it could potentially be subject to freedom of information requests, Bullard said.

Ranchers worried that kind of producer data could be used by meat packers to gain leverage in negotiating prices, or by people who became sick after eating bad meat and wanted to sue everyone in the supply chain, he explained.

Allowing the use of cheap, metal ear tags instead of the more costly electronic tags proposed under NAIS also largely solves the problem of cost, Bullard said.

Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said he was not familiar with the upcoming proposal but emphasized that his group has favored a voluntary approach in the past.

“Our policy has supported voluntary traceability programs,” Stallman told reporters at a May 17 press lunch, adding that some of the group’s members are involved in animal identification for more premium markets.

“There’s some involved in that,” he said. “So they’re not [all] opposed to the idea of traceability. What they’ve been opposed to is who has the information and how much is it going to cost, and how’s the information going to be used,” he said, echoing similar worries to those expressed by Bullard.

But Bullard called other parts of the forthcoming proposal a “broken promise” to his members because USDA had assured them that hot-iron brands would still be considered official identifiers under the new system, and that cattle under 18 months old would not be covered.

Bullard said the latest draft of the proposal recognizes only metal or electronic ear tags as official identifiers and would begin to cover cattle of all ages once 70 percent of cattle older than 18 months roughly the breeding age have been registered in the tracing system.

This version of the proposal has been submitted to the Office of Management and Budget and should be released soon, he added, but R-CALF is urging USDA not to publish it until those provisions are changed.

His group wants branding to be recognized as a universal identifier because ear tags can easily fall off, or be replaced by thieves. Under the proposal, brands could only be recognized through special state-to-state agreements. In the interview, Bullard also said that including younger “feeder” cattle in the system is unnecessarily burdensome.

“Our position is, there has been no demonstrated need to identify these younger animals,” Bullard said.

“We have been highly successful in eradicating diseases by focusing only on the breeding herd. And so we want to focus on the breeding herd, and when that is accomplished, we want to do a needs assessment to determine if the additional cost and burden upon the industry outweigh the benefits of the program.”

“We believe that these feeder cattle are already sufficiently traceable during their relatively short lifespans,” he added, “[and] that there is no need to mandate their identification at this time.”

ABA Chairman Brad Bellinger said today, “I am most concerned over recent trade data that shows that the USA without a National Livestock Identification Systems (NLIS) is gaining market share in both Japan and the EU compared to the beef exports for Australia.”

Mr Bellinger continued, “The volume of US beef being sent to Japan is up 40% in March 2011 compared to March 2010.  Although total imports for Japan increased for March imports from Australia actually fell by around 5% compared with the same period last year.”The devaluation of the US dollar against the yen and the rise in the Australian dollar is to blame for our poor performance in our most valuable export market.Economic reality not NLIS or extra marketing funds to Japan via an increased MLA levy  is what Ag Ministers and their advisors need to face.

Mr Bellinger said, “The European Market in which the NLIS promoters said we must have RFID tags shows a glaring example of its irrelevance.”

US beef shipments to the EU are forecast to reach 16,000 tones with Australia shipping roughly 3000 tonnes.

“State Governments have been gullible to believe that NLIS would increase market access when legislating the half billion dollar NLIS white elephant and we need an urgent Inquiry into NLIS using RFID tags”, Mr Bellinger declared.                                 ENDS

For more information please contact Brad Bellinger on 02 6725 4282 Mob 045 822 8989

John Carter 02 4832 1179 or Mob 0427 321 179

For more background information go to our website www.austbeef.com.au

Sally Black
Australian Beef Association
26 Desmond Lane
P O Box 446
OAKEY QLD 4401
Phone: 07 4691 2618
Fax:      07 4691 3814
Mobile:  041 1103 059
Email:     austbeef@netspace.net.au
Website: www.austbeef.com.au

Letter to the Editor

The National Animal Identification System (NAIS) started a no-win war for the USDA. On February 5, 2010, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced that NAIS was flawed and would be terminated, never to return. Now, and even when it was announced as dead, a new-name, Animal Disease Traceability Program is full throttle. ADT is a clone sister to NAIS!

Dislike for the old NAIS program has multiplied daily by clans of all flavors.

It is easy to quote the bad results of the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) of Australia, the total costs on livestock producers, enforcement fees, and serious concerns about individual property rights.

As USDA marches stone-faced onward for 100% compliance on the repackaged, ADT, livestock producers strapped for cash fear the worst.

A prime selling point by USDA is the importance to move fast in case of an outbreak of some new foreign or unknown livestock disease. At first blush it sounds compassionate, until facts reveal that the industry already has a major epidemic on US dairy farms, and the USDA has proven for years to have little concern to stop it. Is there a tunip truck-load of hypocrisy showing between the lines?

The Disease USDA Refuses to Trace.

In 2004 the USDA estimated the Johne’s infection rate to be at 20%. Today, reliable estimates reveal over 60% of the nation’s dairy herds are comingled with Johne’s positive cows, a 300% increase in only four years, but the USDA doesn’t feel this is a problem. The USDA appears comfortable with this major epidemic, and has no plan for acceleration about the problem. The USDA estimates an annual financial loss as a result of Johne’s in dairy herds to be $200,000,000. For one year the Johne’s loss is nearly as much as USDA has invested in grants promoting NAIS. This annual loss is more than 1000% over the eradication costs of the US Avian Influenza fiasco, a statistic USDA tossed out to tout the serious need of an NAIS mandatory system.

USDA is not totally avoiding Johne’s. A token budget is allocated for research, public awareness and press releases on how to manage a dairy with Johne’s. The amount of that budget was reduced in the recent Farm Bill — now it is just peanuts!

If the USDA is concerned about (any) disease, why aren’t they shaking their fist at Johne’s? Sometimes USDA pays less attention to animal diseases that do not effect human health. Perhaps that is not so — reliable information connects Johne’s with the human disease, Crohn’s. Crohn’s Disease, virtually unheard of a few years ago, is on the rise. Today, up to two million US citizens are infected. Crohn’s Disease can be diagnosed in children, who will suffer a life of pain. The stark similarities of each disease causes knowledgeable scientist to be certain that once bovine Johne’s is eliminated, the same process can be effective to solve the human coequal.

How to Spot a Problem?

The signs of Johne’s Disease in cattle are closely related to Crohn’s Disease in humans:

  • Frequent diarrhea
  • Cramps and pains in stomach
  • Feces blood
  • No stamina
  • Internal bleeding
  • No appetite, fever
  • Intestine Obstructions
  • Internal pain and abscesses

There is no known cure for Johne’s or Crohn’s. Some medical assistance is available for people.

Johne’s signs of death in cattle is a slow withering away of all body condition in the final stages.

Where does Johne’s Come From?

Johne’s is contracted by ingesting feces from infected animals. Animals who are raised on clean grass pastures seldom get infected. Dairy herds are often contained with beef cattle herds to provide a more diverse farm income. Many beef herds with Johne’s have traced their infected stock back to dairy raised purchases. Today Johne’s is found in beef herds, yet with much lower percentages than dairies. It is rapidly consuming highly productive dairy cows.

If the USDA and corporate proponents of the old NAIS felt disease was important, they’d at least exhibit a good faith effort about Johne’s. The most costly disease of our generation has the USDA urgency of watching paint dry. USDA’s rubber neck avoidance of Johne’s shows one of the most shameful milk-toast approaches to disease eradication in USDA history.

What is the answer?

Like other diseases, only two things are needed to permanently deal with Johne’s, one fool-proof vaccination and one fool-proof negative/positive test method. At this time neither appear to be a consideration much less a priority to USDA. USDA is totally consumed in promoting NAIS, or now ADT.

Tracing Infected Herds?

Is locating infected herds a problem with Johne’s? If it was announced that a vaccine and a valid test method has been developed, cattle owners would stampede to use it. USDA will not have any problem locating herds. The owners of infected cattle are always the first to be concerned and promptly deal with health issues. If USDA does their job, the concern of premises location is a mute point, and always has been.

As long as USDA procrastinates on a good-faith attempt to deal with Johne’s disease, anything they say about their “come hell or high water” new ADT enforcement is totally and completely bogus! It will be impossible to convince livestock producers that the new ADT enforcement will do a “gnats bristle” of good to eliminate disease when Johne’s is not considered a priority USDA issue.

Until USDA can get their priorities straight, producers should not believe USDA will do better tracing disease with the quackery of a costly ADT enforcement.

More info: www.naisinfocentral.net, www.naisSTINKS.com, www.libertyark.net, and www.FarmAndRanchFreedom.org.

Quotes and data provided by USDA, Gary McEntyre DVM, NAFAW, Countryside, Peggy Steward, Dr. Max Thornsberry, Brad Headtel, Jerri, Darol Dickinson, and Jim Silwa. Thank you for contributing.

Well, enforcement is always the next step with government regulation.  Here is an article from Australia:

Crackdown begins on saleyard compliance

12 Apr, 2011 09:14 AM

A STATEWIDE operation targeting sheep and goat sales is being launched this week to crackdown on identification and tracing compliance, NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) Director Agricultural Compliance, Andrew Sanger said.

“Codenamed ‘Shepherd’, the crackdown is a joint operation between NSW DPI, the Livestock Health and Pest Authorities (LHPA) and the NSW Police Service’s Rural Crime Unit,” Mr Sanger said.

“The operation will specifically target landholder and industry compliance with the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS), Australia’s key scheme for identifying and tracing livestock.

“Over a six month period authorities will be visiting both large and small sheep and goat saleyards across the State to ensure landholders are meeting their requirements under the NLIS scheme.

“NLIS compliance is taken very seriously in NSW and penalties range from $550 fines through to prosecution for more serious offenders.”

Mr Sanger said Australia is recognised globally for producing clean, safe and quality meat products.

“NLIS helps us protect our enviable reputation and is a critical biosecurity measure in quickly and effectively responding to food safety and disease incidents,” Mr Sanger said.

“NLIS is also an important tool in tackling rural crime and the theft of stock.”

Under the NLIS scheme, all sheep must be ear tagged before they are moved from any property to a saleyard, abattoir or another property. The scheme uses visually readable ear tags printed with a Property Identification Code (PIC) to identify mobs of sheep and goats.

An electronic animal ID system has been the passion of USDA for over 18 years. Recently, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced that hot iron branding was an acceptable form of future animal ID.

History completely agrees with the secretary’s findings.

Branding History

The western cowboy did not invent hot iron branding. The documented history of branding goes back for thousands of years. Scenes of oxen being branded on hieroglyphics are depicted on Egyptian tombs as early as 2,700 BC.

Hot Iron BrandingHot iron branding animal ID, for proof of title, has not changed for over 5,000 years. The book of Zechariah records this process in chapter 3 verse 2, “a brand plucked out of the fire.”

On a darker side of history, the use of a hot iron as proof of ownership went beyond cattle to an area people today prefer not to think about, the ID branding of human beings. From days of the ancient Greeks, Arabians, Romans and Egyptians, slaves were often marked as property with a small brand by their owner. The practice has continued in slave owning countries around the world. More recently branding has been used on prisoners and self branding which is termed “art branding” or “scarification.”

Hernando Cortez is credited with bringing the first branding irons to the Americas in 1541. His personal holding brand was three crosses.

Branding became common in the US after the Civil War. Eventually, in Canada, the second session of the Northwest Territories government on August 1, 1878 established a law requiring all livestock to be branded.

Brands of every shape and design were visible on every Longhorn that came out of Texas during the great trail drives. Spanish brands are often artistically designed with cursive, complicated circular characters. The western American ranchers chose simpler block and open shapes, which proved harder to alter and easier to read.

Designing a Personal Brand

Designs and names of brands are as colorful as the people who use them. The traditions and pride of ownership attached to brands is a volume in itself.

Selecting a brand can be a simple thing or as detailed and historically meaningful as the owner desires. Most brands are based on the owner’s or the ranch’s initials. They may be a symbol, letter, number, character or combinations of connected or separate figures. A brand symbol, for example, may be a hat, fish, pitch fork, shovel, hook, bell, spur, staple, horse shoe, or wine glass. The list goes on.

Brands are read like books from top to bottom and from left to right. Without a doubt, it is a historical, respected, language all it’s own.

A branding iron should be of quarter-inch clean iron made to the desired shape. Small cattle should be branded with irons about 3″ tall and larger adult stock can be about 4.”

A horse iron can be as small as 2″.

The handle should be about thirty inches long with an end grip holding device. When applied to stock, separate letters should be at least one inch apart so as not to appear attached.

Notches or “breaks” are necessary on all irons where the bars join or intersect, about 1/4″ to 3/8″ wide. This prevents blotching in the corners. Letters like the top point of an A are particularly prone to blotch and always should be left open. Letters like L, C, U, I, J, S and open shapes yield themselves to clean readable brands.

Holding Brand Registration

No ownership holding brand should be applied until legally registered. Registration is done in most states through the Dept. of Agriculture. A brand design is submitted for approval and recorded for a set fee, and only the recorded owner of that design can legally use it on their livestock.

No two brands will be registered that are, or appear to be, the same design. In the eastern U.S. many states only have a few hundred registered brands, so it is easy to acquire a simple, clean brand.

Colorado, on the other hand, has registered over 60,000 brands making it difficult to get a new brand with less than 4 letters. Texas, not to be outdone, claims over 230,000 registered brands on the books.

Code Brand Records

Simple brand codes may reveal to the owner information like pedigrees, year of birth, or ranch division where born. In order to keep the brand process simple and requiring minimal time to apply, fewer letters are always better.

A single number indicating the year of birth is quite often used. The current year 2010 would be “0”. At a glance the owner can easily know the year of birth. The year code can be part of the regular numbering system, over, under, in front of, or beyond the animal ID brand number. Brands are simple and can be recorded on a paper tablet providing a permanent record that lives well beyond the life of the animal. The numbering process is practiced by most ranches providing a non duplicate ID for every animal traceable through the records of USDA through the state brand registration system.

Confinement

Successfully applying a clear distinct ID brand requires the recipient to be still. In the open range, cattle were roped and laid on the ground for branding. Some of the best clear brands are done this way.

The same process can be used in a small herd where the critter is physically laid down, not on the open range, but in a back yard corral. This is recommended for young calves, and not adults.

When adult cattle are branded, a metal squeeze chute is safe and efficient. The side squeeze chutes eliminate the head catch and restrain the critter better from head swinging. This provides safer name tagging, vapor tagging, and OCV tattoos. Plus, the side swing confinements are always the safest for releasing an animal from either side. A general purpose chute sells for $1250 to $2500.

Animal Safety/Care

All processes in cattle care should be bloodless. Although tags and pins are numerous, each tag entry can puncture arteries, hide, muscles and pierce major ear cartilage, which always bleeds. With bleeding can come infection, insect attraction, irritation, or partial loss of hearing and ear function.

The searing process of branding should never draw blood and is self sealing. It becomes a permanent ID in seconds and no medication should be needed in the future.

State Brand Laws

Secretary Vilsack has wisely acknowledged the State Brand Inspection Systems (SBIS) are good animal ID. From the Mississippi west every state has brand laws and inspection procedures, with some dating well over a hundred years old — well tested by time. Branding is economical and a system currently in use by nearly every major cattle raiser. It doesn’t require more fees, expanded USDA staff, computer education, high tech equipment purchases (not proven to perform under range conditions) or pernicious enforcement fines. The old brand laws work for all the right reasons. Last year SBIS visually inspected and documented 27,000,000 cattle according to James Clement, DVM. (See Animal ID, Another View)

Heating the Irons

More irons have been heated with wood than any other way. A hot wood fire serves the purpose well. Today most people are in a hurry and use either electric irons or heat with propane. A small propane bottle will heat a lot of irons and may be transported easily without the limitations of an electric cord.

The iron, when heated properly, should appear a light ash color. An iron heated in a flame will first accumulate carbon and appear very black. A black iron is too cold. It may be hot enough to burn or singe the hair, but not hot enough to penetrate the roots of the hair follicles, essential for a permanent mark.

Red hot, yellow, or white irons should be cooled before use. A red hot iron may brand too fast. The beauty of clear clean brands comes with experience.

Applying the Brand

It is impossible to make a rule for the length of time the iron should be held to the hide, because the condition of the hair and the temperature vary.

To apply the brand, move the handle in a slow, rocking motion which will vary the pressure. A critter is not a flat surface so a flat iron may not clearly mark at all corners. It is better to remove the iron after a couple of seconds, check the mark and reapply the iron to the parts not adequately branded. Always error on the light side rather than over doing the time and pressure.

With the first brand effort, test the result. Hand rub the brand and briskly remove the charred hair. If the animal has been properly branded, a clear outline mark of the complete brand will have a saddle leather light rust color to it.

On the other hand, if the iron was not hot enough, only the hair will be burned and short partially branded hair will be in the brand design. Re-heat and place the iron exactly on the same spot and allow additional time.

RFID ID Tags in Europe

In Europe numerous ear tag computer methods are used. Year by year more electronic ear devices become mandatory, attached at birth. (calf already has 4 tags - required by law)

When branding is complete, a generous rub with bacon grease using a paint mitten will promptly soothe and lubricate the hide.

An adult steer has hide 10 times thicker than a human. A good brand only enters about one tenth into the total thickness of the hide. Penetration of the skin’s epidermis outer layer is the goal of a correct brand. Correct placement is below the hair and above the dermis tissue.

What is the Real Reason?

Proof of title is the historic reason for a brand. It has worked for over 5,000 years. It is the best permanent ID for an owner’s records. Permanent fire brand ID not only works on a live animal, but continues to be a valid ID on the hide after processing. Unfortunately, there are always unscrupulous people who want to steal or “rustle” livestock. In the fifth century BC, I Chronicles 7-21 records that the whole family of Ephraim was killed for “trying” to rustle cattle.

Modern cattle rustlers, which are numerous, truly love the current highly promoted electronic ID. Any cattle rustler can easily remove, replace, change tags and electronic pins. To speed up the process rustlers order a Tag-Sav-R Ear Tag Remover from Nasco for $25.75. Nasco Tag-Sav_RThis jiffy Safety Tag Knifetool was developed to back-out the pin arrow and allow a person to replace it into another animal. It only takes a couple seconds on most pins. If $25.75 cost too much, Nasco has a more affordable Safety Tag Knife for $3.95, cut those unsightly tags out and throw them away.

To think the 840 pins are legal ID or even correct source verification is absurd.

When a rustler is in a hurry to haul-out, it only takes a second to cut the whole ear tip off. That is not a permanent animal ID — ask any successful cattle rustler.

Special TSCRA Ranger Scott Williamson, who is working on several rustling cases in Texas says, “It is a great deal easier in court when stolen animals are fire branded. Prosecutors prefer to try cases where the animals have been branded. If you can prove to the prosecutor that he’s going to be able to absolutely identify an animal in court, he knows he’s not sticking his neck out to take the case.”

No type of animal ear ID has ever held up in court for a conviction, yet hot iron brands have.

Every major cattle producing nation on earth used fire brands. The permanence and stability of a fire brand is superior to all other ID methods including the old “brite” USDA tags that are being newly promoted for ADT.

So, after the smoke and the dust are settled, and all the government bureaucrats have put up their crayolas, trust your neighbors — but fire brand your cattle!

USDA wanting to end Fire Branding as means of ID

We should have known this would happen! Now USDA is planning to de list the hot-iron brand from the list of “official animal identification devices.” As all cattle producers know, the hot iron ID and holding brand system is the basis of historic permanent ID. If the federales oppose hot iron branding it could easily be assumed that PETA and other animal rights wackos will grab on the coat tails of USDA. A day could come that only the NAIS digital ear tags would be allowed. As with other idiot federal enforcements in the last two years, they can eventually smell egg on their own faces, and to protect their bureaucratic gravy-trains, crawfish backwards and renege their plan.

In the last few years trusted farm and cattle organizations have prostrated with USDA’s pitiful ideas. When they could have opposed bad judgement, they allowed costly enforcements to be enacted and cattle producers pay the price.

Most do not know what USDA is now planning. This is a USDA conspiratorial step to resurrect the flawed-thought of the hated NAIS. You have not been warned about this in the cattle media as they also understand the profitable nature of a passive attitude toward their consistent advertiser, USDA.

Only one organization is on their toes, alert and ready to defend the US cattle producers — R-CALF USA. The attached letter gives the position (not passive) of R-CALF. Each cattle producer should support R-CALF in their efforts to defend producers from USDA’s cumbersome-costly and ominous regulations, like delisting hot iron branding. Every professional producer understands the value of fire branding for permanent ID and prevention of cattle thefts.

If you are a USA citizen and cattle producer, it is very profitable to join and support R-CALF. Attached is a membership application.

Why R-CALF USA Opposes USDA Proposal to Delist Brands

The hot-iron brand is part-and-parcel to the culture and heritage of the U.S. cattle industry. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has long recognized the importance of the brand as a permanent means of identifying livestock, not only for determining ownership, but also for conducting disease investigations. USDA regulations concerning interstate transportation of animals include the registered brand, when accompanied by a certificate of inspection (certificate) from a recognized brand authority, as an official identification device or method for use in existing disease programs. USDA regulations at 9 CFR 71.1 state:

Official identification device or method. A means of officially identifying an animal or group of animals using devices or methods approved by the Administrator, including, but not limited to, official tags, tattoos, and registered brands when accompanied by a certificate of inspection from a recognized brand inspection authority (emphasis added).

Under USDA’s earlier proposed Animal Disease Traceability Framework (ADTF), breeding-aged cattle would bear an ear tag containing a number identifier (such as the low-cost metal “Brite” tag) as a condition for interstate transportation. This proposal would restore traceability to levels previously achieved when breeding females were ear tagged under the brucellosis program. Like the brucellosis tag, the new tag would augment other official devices such as brands or tattoos. This augmentation enhances traceability because while ear tags are prone to loss, brands remain permanent. Brands have facilitated disease investigations throughout history.

Under this breeding-age-cattle-only proposal, interstate transportation of branded feeder cattle accompanied with a certificate would continue as it has for decades. States that identify a disease suspect in branded feeder cattle, regardless of whether the states have their own brand programs, could continue to use the brand and certificates to contact the state where the certificates were issued to identify the herd of origin – just as they have for decades.

But, USDA has now changed its position and plans to delist the brand as an official animal identification device and include feeder cattle in the ADTF. This would discredit the hot-iron brand as a means of identifying cattle in interstate transportation. Here’s why:
1) The brand and accompanying certificates would forever be delisted as an official animal identification device.
2) USDA may well be precluded from requiring permanent brands on imported cattle after brands are delisted.
3) When the trigger for feeder cattle is reached, the brand and accompanying certificates will be delisted, so USDA would need to carve out a special brand exception to allow states to continue using brands to identify cattle, causing the brand to be relegated to a secondary position in relation to USDA’s ear tag.
4) No longer will the numerical ear tag be an augmentation to the more permanent brand, but instead, the ear tag will be deemed a substitute for brands, providing justification for brand opponents such as meat packers that believe hide values would increase, and tag companies that believe sale revenues would increase, without brands.
5) USDA’s act of delisting brands will send an erroneous signal to the industry that brands are of limited use for disease traceback and likely will trigger a de-emphasis for brand programs operating in many states.
6) USDA’s act of delisting brands would be the first step toward the eventual elimination of hot-iron branding in the United States.

Please Download R-CALF Application and send it in. http://www.texaslonghorn.com/emails/R-CALF_Membership_Application.pdf

Editor’s Note: Abu Dhabi, the center of the United Arab Emirates, like all other countries is drinking the koolaid about animal ID from the World Ogranisation of Animal Health (OIE). They are told to ID every animal or they can not export — else all livestock value will be ended.

Abu Dhabi, unlike the USA proposed a compulsory AIRS (same as NAIS) that all animals be numbered for food health purposes. In Abu Dhabi the race horses aren’t numbered, but 105,087 camels are. Most won’t be eating camels, but who knows, maybe they have gonorrhea? The government is paying for the computer records and furnishing compliance officers to search the desert sands for every camel, goat, sheep, and cattle.

The fact Abu Dhabi imports over 90% of their milk and meat why do they listen to the OIE and concern themselves with export issues? It is the same sales pitch offered by the USDA, and the United Nations. Now, every one humped dromedary will have an ear chip, but the camel jockeys won’t have to pay for it.

Over 1 million livestock registered in Abu Dhabi

16 January 2011,

ABU DHABI — The Animal Identification and Registration System (AIRS) campaign registered and tagged over a million animals in the livestock category, the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA) announced.

The authority allocated 55 teams of four each to implement and reach its target in Abu Dhabi city and the Eastern Region that includes Al Ain.

In Al Gharbia or the Western Region, work will be completed by the end of February.

In the last three months since the AIRS kicked off in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, 7,878 farms were visited.

The authority also said the animals already registered include 105,087 camels, 25,748 cows and 1,050,087 sheep and goat heads.

“AIRS campaign is progressing extremely well and we are geared up to complete it on schedule. Farm owners and workers have fully understood the huge benefits AIRS can bring about for them, the consumers, the community, and are greatly supportive for field teams. This is indeed a decisive factor that is helping us to complete both Abu Dhabi and Al Ain Regions on time and we are very thankful for them,” said Mohamed Jalal Al Reyaysa, Director of Communication and Community Service, ADFCA. “As we embark on the Western Region AIRS campaign, we invite livestock owners in Abu Dhabi Region whose animals have not been identified yet to contact the AIRS help desk 800555, or other various existing communications channels to provide all required information such as farm area and number, GPS Location, livestock number per species and AIRS team will set a visit time,” he advised.

AIRS is compulsory and free of charge for livestock owners and it allows the traceability of animals and products of animal origin.

The programme aims to achieve many benefits for Abu Dhabi, livestock owners and consumers and the community such as national database for animals towards achieving food safety, better livestock management systems, as well as better diseases surveillance and control of humans and animals health emergencies.

news@khaleejtimes.com