Browsing Posts tagged brands

R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America

 

“Fighting for the U.S. ! Cattle Producer”

 

For Immediate Release                                                                         Contact: R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard

December 22, 2011                                                                                          Phone: 406-252-2516; r-calfusa@r-calfusa.com

 

8 Days (Now 10) of Opposition to USDA’s Proposed Mandatory Animal Identification Rule:  Part IX of X-Part Series

Billings, Mont. – To minimize the size of the last scheduled news release in R-CALF USA’s 8-day series, R-CALF USA extended the series for two additional days. Each daily news release provides a detailed explanation of the reasons our members vehemently oppose the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS’) proposed mandatory animal identification rule titled, Traceability for Livestock Moving Interstate (proposed rule).

With this effort, R-CALF USA hopes to bring to light many of the dangerous aspects associated with the proposed rule that R-CALF USA described in its voluminous comments submitted to APHIS on Dec. 9, 2011. Click here to view the entire 41-page comment submitted by R-CALF USA, which includes all of the group’s citations to specific references that are removed from this news release to save space.

Part IX:  The Agency’s Disdain for Brands, Inclusion of Feeder Cattle, and Failure to Disclose Documented Reasons for Untimely Disease Tracebacks Demonstrate APHIS’ Insincerity 

  1. APHIS’ Proposed Rule Discriminates Against States that Require Brand Inspections and Brand Inspection Certificates as a Condition for Leaving a Brand Inspection Area and Discriminates Against Cattle Producers Within Those States that Pay for and Rely on Brands and Brand Certificates to Identify Their Cattle
  1. APHIS’ inexplicable failure to include hot-iron brands accompanied by a certificate from a recognized brand inspection authority as a group/lot identifier is unscientific.

APHIS has failed to recognize brands as an official means of providing group/lot identification, under any circumstance. This is more than just alarming because of the obvious fact that each animal in a group of branded cattle is traceable even in the event the group/lot identification number is lost or destroyed, or in the event the group of animals, or any member of the group of animals, is inadvertently separated. APHIS cannot make this claim for any other group/lot identification device it is proposing.

The ability to identify each individual member of the group as a member of the group is scientifically and practicably superior to any of the group/lot identification devices proposed by APHIS in the proposed rule. It is unconscionable that APHIS would reject the single most effective means of group/lot identification, and the only means that would enable a trace back of a group/lot that inadvertently becomes separated or for which the paperwork is lost or destroyed.

APHIS must universally recognize the hot-iron brand accompanied by a certificate from a recognized brand authority as an officially approved group/lot identification method. Further, U.S. cattle producers that move in interstate commerce a group/lot of branded cattle accompanied by a certificate from a recognized brand authority should have no further obligation to place any other type of animal identification on their cattle. When the group lot arrives at its destination, which may be another brand state wherein the cattle likely will be rebranded, the buyer or buyers of those cattle should be responsible for applying any type of identification that may be required by the receiving state if the group is to be separated. I! f the group is not separated, e.g., if the entire group is sold to a feedlot for finishing, than the owner or manager of those cattle in the receiving state should have no obligation to apply any other form of identification.

  1. Under no circumstances should APHIS include feeder cattle in any mandatory animal identification rule.

The U.S. all but eradicated diseases such as bovine TB and brucellosis by focusing on the identification of breeding cattle only. The principal culprits that have caused the resurgence of those diseases are imported cattle (primarily from Mexico, see supra) and wildlife reservoirs. APHIS has the authority, recourses and means to fully prevent the continual reintroduction of disease that are spread by imported cattle as well as to minimize disease reservoirs in wildlife, but it refuses to implement stricter import standards and effective wildlife mitigations. Instead, USDA wants to burden the owners! of our nation’s 31.4 million beef mother cows with its onerous, overreaching rule that effectively forces U.S. cattle producers to pay costs associated with other country’s disease problems and site-specific wildlife problems. This proposed rule is anything but a scientific, risk-based proposal.

APHIS has failed to explain how past disease programs were so “tremendously successful” without ever imposing mandatory identification on feeder cattle and why, suddenly, APHIS deems it necessary.

As stated above, the cost of ear tagging the 2010 calf crop, again using APHIS’ estimate that 3.1 million calves already bear official identification, would be between $554 million and $880 million. This cost would be expected to be incurred year after year if feeder cattle were subjected to the proposed rule. Even using APHIS’ grossly understated cost of $4.68 per head, the proposed rule would cost U.S. cattle producers $152.6 million annually.

For comparison purposes, APHIS estimates the annual cost to states and the federal government for bovine TB testing is $2.6 million. However, this cost does not come close to justifying the mandatory imposition of hundreds of millions of dollars in additional costs on U.S. cow/calf producers.

  1. APHIS has failed to disclose the full nature of the problem the proposed rule is intended to address or to explain how the proposed rule would be expected to correct the serious problems APHIS failed to disclose.

APHIS has failed to disclose significant problems that have been identified in its disease traceback operations and has failed to explain how the proposed rule would be expected to correct those problems. For example, APHIS attempts to justify its proposed rule on the basis that some bovine TB investigations exceed 150 days.  See supporting document, at 8.  APHIS, along with other proponents of the proposed rule’s precursor – NAIS – alleged that because of what they call an “outdated system of tracking outbreaks of animal diseases to their sources (EXHIBIT 26, p. 5);” and a “lack of any official identification” with which to determine the “specific origin of the subject animal . . .[and] without movement data (EXHIBIT 7, p. 3),”  disease traceback investigations have taken too long to conduct.  Both the American Veterinar! y Medical Association (AVMA) and APHIS cited the same statistics to su pport their allegations:  AVMA stated, “Investigators spent an average of 199 days tracing the sources of animals infected with bovine tuberculosis between October 2005 and August 2007 (EXHIBIT 26, p. 5).” APHIS stated, “The average time spent conducting a traceback involving 27 recent bovine tuberculosis investigations was 199 days (EXHIBIT 7, p. 4).”

However, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted an audit of APHIS’ control over its bovine TB eradication program in September 2006. According to the audit, the OIG found that a lack of identification on individual animals was not the sole source of APHIS’ problem in conducting its bovine TB investigations. In fact, the OIG found that over half of the investigations that were closed with an outcome of “untraceable” were animals that were identified with eartags, but the eartags either were not collected at the time of slaughter, had been removed by the feedlot prior to slaughter, or were unable to be traced because there was no requirement to maintain records (EXHIBIT 27, p. 38).  Equally important, the OIG found that APHIS’ disease eradication efforts were hampered because the agency was not using its oversight tools in a timely manner, i.e., not timely reviewing and responding to the annual and monthly summaries of program results submitted by States nor was it properly reviewing States for program compliance (EXHIBIT 27, p. 5-9). The OIG also found that APHIS was not following Federal regulations for declaring affected bovine TB herds, which weakened the agency’s ability to contain and eradicate the disease and resulted in no additional controls being put in place for the majority of bovine TB cases detected in the past 5 years (EXHIBIT 27, p. 11-14). The agency was also cited for not timely downgrading the TB status of States after the agency knew that the disease was not isolated in one herd (EXHIBIT 27, p. 16-17); not having adequate controls to restrict the introduction of bovine TB in Mexican cattle (EXHIBIT 27, p. 19-21); not requiring slaughtering facilities to conduct surveillance at the recommended rate (EXHIBIT 27, p. ! 22-24); not monitoring high-risk herds and the corresponding on-farm testing that is required (EXHIBIT 27, p. 28-29); and not providing sufficient training to investigators so investigations could be completed in a timely manner (EXHIBIT 27, p. 22, 25, 28).

APHIS has failed to provide the livestock industry with sufficient data to identify all significant problems associated with current animal disease traceability systems and provide documentation to show how any new animal disease traceability system would be expected to resolve any such specific problems. The systemic problems described above are internal management problems that impede disease control and eradication as well as disease investigations and would not be solved by implementing the proposed rule.

Because the proposed rule fails to address how APHIS intends to address the systemic problems disclosed and discussed above, it is as likely as not that APHIS’ internal management problems would continually hamstring disease investigations and no measurable improvement would be made to the timeliness of the Agency’s disease investigation simply by imposing an outrageously expensive identification requirement on U.S. cattle producers.

 

R-CALF USA encourages readers to share this information with their neighbors, state animal health officials, and their members of Congress. 

R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America

 

“Fighting for the U.S. ! Cattle Producer”

 

For Immediate Release                                                                         Contact: R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard

December 21, 2011                                                                                          Phone: 406-252-2516; r-calfusa@r-calfusa.com

 

8 Days (Now 10) of Opposition to USDA’s Proposed Mandatory Animal Identification Rule:  Part VIII of X-Part Series

Billings, Mont. – To minimize the size of the last scheduled news release in R-CALF USA’s 8-day series, R-CALF USA is extending the series for two more days. Each daily news release provides a detailed explanation of the reasons our members vehemently oppose the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS’) proposed mandatory animal identification rule titled, Traceability for Livestock Moving Interstate (proposed rule).

With this effort, R-CALF USA hopes to bring to light many of the dangerous aspects associated with the proposed rule that R-CALF USA described in its voluminous comments submitted to APHIS on Dec. 9, 2011. Click here to view the entire 41-page comment submitted by R-CALF USA, which includes all of the group’s citations to specific references that are removed from this news release to save space.

Part VIII:  APHIS’ Proposed Rule Is an Affront to the Cattle Industry’s Centuries-old Brand

 

  1. APHIS’ Proposed Rule Discriminates Against States that Require Brand Inspections and Brand Inspection Certificates as a Condition for Leaving a Brand Inspection Area and Discriminates Against Cattle Producers Within Those States that Pay for and Rely on Brands and Brand Certificates to Identify Their Cattle

 

  1. APHIS’s proposed rule ignores the historical effectiveness, functionality and permanence of the hot-iron brand as a means of identifying cattle and groups of cattle.

 

APHIS is acutely aware of the superior permanence of the hot-iron brand as compared to ear tags.  In its final rule to allow the importation of Canadian cattle 30 months of age or older (OTM rule), APHIS distinguishes brands as “permanent identification,” while separately requiring, in addition to permanent identification, an official ear tag to be placed in imported Canadian cattle (EXHIBIT 24, p. 53378 col. 1). In fact, ear tags are not even mentioned as acceptable means of permanent identification, with only freeze brands, hot-iron brands, and tattoos expressly listed among the acceptable, permanent means of identification (EXHIBIT 24, p. 53378 col. 1). In addition to permanent identification, the OTM rule also requires the individual identification with an official ear tag of the country of origin (EXHIBIT 24, p. 53378 co! l. 1).

 

APHIS’ purpose for requiring permanent brands on Canadian cattle along with ear tags is succinctly explained in the OTM rule. APHIS stated, “We recognize that animals can lose eartags at various points in the process. . . (EXHIBIT 24, p. 53340 col. 1).”

 

The foregoing discussion reveals that for disease traceback purposes, even for cattle originating in regions that APHIS has deemed a “minimal-risk” for disease, APHIS requires a three-prong traceback system:  1) it requires the permanent identification of the animal using a brand or tattoo; 2) it requires individual identification with an official ear tag; and, 3) it requires visible information on the animal to denote the animal’s origin (EXHIBIT 24, p. 53379 col. 1).

 

R-CALF USA agrees that this three-prong traceback system is a science-based means of achieving functional traceability on livestock that may be subject to a disease investigation.  The system has needed redundancy to address the inherent propensity for ear tags to be lost, and it provides visible information that enables any person to identify the origin of the animal.

 

APHIS’ proposed rule fails completely to explain why the three identification elements needed from minimal-risk regions are not needed to provide a science-based traceback system for U.S. cattle. Nor does APHIS explain which of the three elements are most important to ensure the ability to conduct tracebacks, e.g., is it more important to have permanent identification or are loss-prone ear tags equally functional for disease tracebacks? And, APHIS fails completely to explain why the ability to visibly identify the origin of the animal is not even necessary for domestic traceback purposes.

 

If the requirement contained in the OTM rule is science-based, than the proposed requirements in the proposed rule are not.  This is because the proposed rule incorporates only one of the three elements required in the OTM rule, and the one it has incorporated is not even recognized by APHIS as a permanent form of identification. The proposed rule depends exclusively on an official ear tag that bears a U.S. shield and a number:  it does not require permanent identification (indeed it expels permanent identification from its list of official animal identification devices), and it does not require ear tags to bear visible information to i! dentify even the state from which the animal originated. APHIS further fails to explain why privately-owned U.S. cattle must bear a U.S. shield for the privilege of moving across a state line. Such a shield is of no use to disease investigators and if a shield is to be required at all, it should be the shield of the state from which the animal originated, at least then a person could immediately initiate a disease investigation by calling the animal heath officials in the state of origin should an animal be detected with a disease. Better yet, the animal should bear the shield of the property’s owner – which is precisely what is accomplished with a registered hot-iron brand.

 

APHIS contends it cannot require all states to accept brands because all states do not have brand inspection programs. At the same time, however, APHIS’ proposed rule requires all states to accept ear tags that do not allow any visible means with which to ascertain the origin of an animal. For example, the APHIS approved 840 ear tag does not contain an identifier that denotes the state of origin.  Therefore, an animal health official without immediate access to an expensive, electronic wand or a national database has no means of initiating an immediate traceback of the animal. On the other hand, if an animal was transported to a state with a brand, then the animal health official could immediately narrow the animal’s potential origin to those states that have a ! recognized brand authority that issues brand certificates. APHIS is disingenuous in its claim that non-brand states cannot accept brands while it simultaneously requires non-wand states to accept 840 electronic tags.

 

APHIS’ proposed identification requirements for cattle lack any scientific justification. APHIS has thrown the proverbial baby out with the bath water by refusing to adopt even the core elements of current U.S. disease programs that APHIS itself acknowledges were “tremendously successful” in the agency’s efforts to eradicate brucellosis.. See 76 Fed. Reg. 50081, col. 3. The highly successful brucellosis program, not surprisingly, incorporated each of the three prongs APHIS requires of Canada:  1) the program recognized brands as official identification, which provided a high level of redundancy; 2) the program required an official ear tag! ; and, 3) the ear tag contained visible information with which to immediately identify the state of origin.

APHIS’ claim that its goal is to shorten the time necessary to conduct disease tracebacks is proved false by APHIS’ failure to adopt the historically proven, simple, and visible state identifier, such as two-digit numeric code that denotes the tag’s state of origin, on all of its approved ear tags.

 

The role of the permanent brand in contributing to the United States’ “tremendously successful” disease program is profound. In a March 9, 2010, article by James C. Clement, D.V.M., Cow-Calf Research & Consulting, Dr. Clement explains the profound contribution that brands and brand programs make to generating animal tracking data every day, along with describing how critical tracking data are compiled.  Dr. Clement states:

 

Animal tracking data is generated every day in Brand States and is the byproduct of routine record-keeping processes that involve cattle marketing businesses and SBIS [State Brand Inspection Systems]. SBIS create inspection certificates associated with the movement of 27,000,000 head of livestock (primarily cattle) on an annual basis (EXHIBIT 25).

 

APHIS cites no study, nor does it have any nationwide experience in conducting animal disease tracebacks without relying upon the animal tracking data generated by brand states. Indeed, APHIS has not cited any system in the world that can hold a candle to the brand states’ ongoing generation of animal tracking data for 27 million head of livestock, primarily cattle, which represents about one-third of the entire U.S. population of cattle and calves.

 

APHIS has no scientific basis for delisting the hot-iron brand accompanied by a certificate from a recognized brand authority from the list of official animal identification devices or methods, or in any way demoting the hot-iron brand to a level below any other form of animal identification.

 

Based on the hot-iron brand’s role in generating animal tacking data for tens of millions of livestock, APHIS’ proposed rule that delists the brand from the list of official animal identification devices will reduce the United State’s ability to timely trace disease suspects to the disease source.

 

R-CALF USA encourages readers to share this information with their neighbors, state animal health officials, and their members of Congress. 

R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America

 

“Fighting for the U.S. ! Cattle Producer”

 

For Immediate Release                                                                         Contact: R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard

December 20, 2011                                                                                          Phone: 406-252-2516; r-calfusa@r-calfusa.com

 

8 Days of Opposition to USDA’s Proposed Mandatory Animal Identification Rule:  Part VII of VIII-Part Series

Billings, Mont. – As promised, R-CALF USA has launched an 8-day series of news releases to explain in detail many of the reasons our members vehemently oppose the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS’) proposed mandatory animal identification rule titled, Traceability for Livestock Moving Interstate (proposed rule).

With this effort, R-CALF USA hopes to bring to light many of the dangerous aspects associated with the proposed rule that R-CALF USA described in its voluminous comments submitted to APHIS on Dec. 9, 2011. Click here to view the entire 41-page comment submitted by R-CALF USA, which includes all of the group’s citations to specific references that are removed from this news release to save space.

Part VII:  APHIS’ Proposed Rule Discriminates Against Brand Inspection States and Brands

  1. APHIS’ Proposed Rule Discriminates Against States that Require Brand Inspections and Brand Inspection Certificates as a Condition for Leaving a Brand Inspection Area and Discriminates Against Cattle Producers Within Those States that Pay for and Rely on Brands and Brand Certificates to Identify Their Cattle
  1. USDA-APHIS has deceived U.S. cattle producers by proposing to remove brands from the list of official animal identification devices or methods.

APHIS’ proposal in the proposed rule to delist the hot-iron brand accompanied by a certificate from a recognized brand authority as an official form of animal identification constitutes a broken promise made by USDA to U.S. cattle producers.  In February 2010, USDA stated in regard to its new animal disease traceability framework, which has materialized into the proposed rule:

USDA will maintain a list of official identification devices, which can be updated or expanded based on the needs of the States and Tribal Nations. There are many official identification options available, such as branding, metal tags, RFID, just to name a few (EXHIBIT 10). (Emphasis added.)

Cattle producers have been outright deceived by USDA due to APHIS’ proposal to remove brands from the list of official identification devices or methods. The construction of the above sentence, along with the usual and customary meaning attached to its words and phrases, unambiguously implies that brands will remain an official identification option on USDA’s list of official identification devices or methods. Only under a perverted interpretation of that sentence could it mean otherwise.

The consequence of APHIS’ action strips from the states and tribes the option to decide to continue relying upon the brand accompanied by a brand certificate from a recognized brand authority to identify livestock. This reduces flexibility for states and tribes to adopt a system that works best for them. In addition, it strips from individual producers within each state the flexibility to decide to continue their reliance on the brand, which flexibility each individual producer could influence by persuading their respective states’ elected officials.

Under the proposed rule, however, the decision to use brands must be made jointly by two or more states or tribes. Thus, any single state or tribe would be subject to decisions made outside their jurisdiction regarding their ability to use brands for identification. This is an affront on state sovereignty. Moreover, the rights of individual cattle producers in a brand state to continue relying upon their brands would be subject to the decisions made in other states, over which they would have no control.

And, the proposed rule would effectively discriminate against cattle producers in states with mandatory brand inspection programs, which are funded in whole or in part by producer fees, by not reimbursing the producers for the cost of brand inspection fees paid when those producers leave the jurisdiction of their brand inspection authority, which generally is the state’s border, when they are required by APHIS to apply a new form of animal identification.  If APHIS does not reimburse producers that are required by their respective state to obtain a brand inspection before leaving their state, and if APHIS nevertheless requires them to incur the cost of applyi! ng a second form of identification (i.e., requires them to apply an ear tag in addition to their preexisting brand), then APHIS would effectively financially disadvantage those producers in interstate commerce by the per head cost for their mandatory brand inspection.

At the very least, USDA-APHIS has an absolute moral and ethical obligation to treat U.S. cattle producers honestly and fairly. Stating one thing and doing another is dishonest and unfair. In this case, USDA-APHIS stated one thing and did another without providing any notice to the public that it had deviated from its official commitment. Regardless of any rationalization USDA-APHIS may espouse to defend its deviant action, it has acted dishonestly, unfairly, and deceptively. For this reason alone, USDA-APHIS must restore the brand’s rightful status as an official animal identification device and withdraw its proposed ru! le.

R-CALF USA encourages readers to share this information with their neighbors, state animal health officials, and their members of Congress. 

 

# # #

 

R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry. For more information, visit www.r-calfusa.com  or, call 406-252-2516.   

 

Seattle PI

Western Rangers fight push to give up brands

Craig and Mary K. Vejraska pose at their cattle ranch June 17, 2011, in Omak, Wash. They support the use of cattle brands in a new animal identification program. Photo: Shannon Dininny / AP

Craig and Mary K. Vejraska pose at their cattle ranch June 17, 2011, in Omak, Wash. They support the use of cattle brands in a new animal identification program. Photo: Shannon Dininny / AP

OMAK, Wash. (AP) — Ranchers have long used brands to keep track of their cattle and deter rustlers, but many now fear branding will become just another relic of the Old West as federal regulators look for new ways to track meat from hoof to plate.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has been trying for years to develop a program that would allow regulators to pinpoint animals’ location with 48 hours of a disease possibility. The political pressure has become greater as other nations demand the U.S. adapt a costly electronic system to trace exported meat back to the farm. Other countries are attempting to enforce a government numbering system, such as Canada and Australia, hoping for a competitive advantage which is not yet proven.

After seeing little success with a voluntary tracking program, the USDA has said it will require farmers and ranchers to be able to trace all livestock and meat shipped or sold across state lines. The USDA’s final proposal is due out this summer, and while it’s leaving it up to states and tribes to decide what kind of tracking to implement, it’s pushing for high-cost ear tags.

Whether states also want to recognize brands is up to them, said Abby Yigzaw, spokeswoman for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

That’s not enough for some cattle ranchers, who are angered by what they see as big-footing by the federal government. Ranchers note that brands are permanent, while ear tags can fall out. But more than anything, support for brands is about holding on to a piece of the past that is proven to work economically.

“It’s just one of the things that keeps the honest people honest,” said Craig Vejraska, whose cattle sport the letter V, surrounded by a circle, on their left flank as they roam across 300,000 acres of tribal and national forest in Washington state. “It’s a tradition.”

Bill Bullard of R-Calf USA, an advocacy group for ranchers, said brands provide a permanent means of identification that has proven instrumental in helping track cases of brucellosis and eradicate it from the domestic herd.

“We find this decision outrageous that the USDA would level a direct attack on what is an iconic symbol of our industry and what has been a tried, proven and effective means of conducting disease trace backs,” Bullard said.

One reason federal officials haven’t embraced brands is that they aren’t used nationwide, said Bill Donald, a Melville, Mont., rancher and current president of the National Cattlemen‘s Beef Association, which represents both ranchers and meatpackers. Fewer than 20 states enforce brand laws to keep tabs on cattle, and nearly all are in the West or Midwest. However, the Department of Agriculture does record a registered brand in every state and charges a fee.

Brands are used in the East, even though ranches are smaller and herds don’t graze on public lands. They still help prevent theft.

Brands haven’t been needed in the East, where farms are smaller and herds don’t graze on public lands.

“Being from a brand state in Montana, I have learned firsthand that our animal trace back should include brand laws,” Donald said. “But they should all be used to complement a national system of identification.”

In Texas, the nation’s No. 1 beef producer, brands are registered at the county level, which means there could be duplicates within the state. For that reason, members of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association understand the USDA’s position, said Eldon White, the group’s executive vice president. But, they also don’t want brands eliminated.

Cattle rancher Craig Vejraska shows off one of his brands at his ranch in Omak, Wash. on June 17, 2011. Vejraska supports the use of cattle brands in a new animal identification program. Photo: Shannon Dininny / AP

Cattle rancher Craig Vejraska shows off one of his brands at his
ranch in Omak, Wash. on June 17, 2011. Vejraska supports the use of
cattle brands in a new animal identification program.
Photo: Shannon Dininny
/ AP

“Brands are a very important method of owner identification in Texas and will continue to be so,” White said. “We would be very concerned and would fight against a movement to eliminate the use of brands altogether.”

But the prospect of pairing brands with some other means of identification hasn’t mollified Western ranchers like Vejraska.

As his pickup bounced along a rutted, dirt road in the Okanogan National Forest, Vejraska pointed out cattle that bear his brand grazing in a meadow. Ear tags that dangle can easily get lost when animals graze in brush, next to fence lines or in harsh weather out on the range, he said.

“Our brand is 50 years old. It’s an essential identifier up here when you’re on the range,” he said. “I see my circle-V, and I know it’s mine.”

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

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