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R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America

 

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

 

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

December 16, 2011                                                                                          Phone: 406-252-2516; r-calfusa@r-calfusa.com

 

8 Days of Opposition to USDA’s Proposed Mandatory Animal Identification Rule:  Part III 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 III:  The Proposed Rule Would Cost the U.S. Cattle Industry Hundreds of Millions of Dollars

 

C. APHIS Grossly Understates the Economic Cost of the Proposed Rule that Will be Borne by U.S. Cattle Producers 

 

  1. 1.      A three-year study shows the proposed rule will cost U.S. cattle producers hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billons of dollars

 

USDA data show the 2010 U.S. calf crop was 35.685 million head and the U.S. commercially slaughtered 34.249 million cattle in 2010. (EXHIBIT 11, p. 19) Based on the assumption that all of those cattle had to be moved at least once in 2010 – from herd of origin to grass or backgrounder, or from herd of origin to feedlot and/or slau! ghter plant, respectively – there was a potential for all those cattle to be moved in interstate commerce and to be subject to the proposed rule’s requirements (it is noted the requirement for indentifying feeder cattle would be only temporarily delayed under the proposed rule). Thus, there was the potential in 2010 for nearly 70 million head of cattle to be required to be individually identified if the proposed rule were fully implemented.

 

A study presented to the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) in 2007 by Kris Ringwall, Ph.D., Director, Dickinson Research Center Extension and Livestock Specialist, North Dakota State University (NDSU), that involved the tagging of 14,432 calves during the three-year period 2004-2006, concluded that the cost working each calf, tag placement and documentation was $7.00 per calf. (EXHIBIT 12, p. 2) In addition, Dr. Ringwall’s three-year project determined tha! t the tagging of calves was costly to producers because of shrink, which he defined as “weight loss while handling calves.” (EXHIBIT 12, p. 2) Dr. Rinwall stated in his testimony:

 

When we’ve measured shrink in the cattle we have worked during the project, we estimate up to $10 to $20 in lost income potential per calf, regardless of the management activity applied. (EXHIBIT 12, p. 2)

 

Based on Dr. Ringwall’s findings, the cost of tagging and documenting calves, excluding the cost of the tag itself, and the cost of the income lost due to shrink, ranged from $17.00 per head to $27.00 per head in 2006 or 2007 dollars. Based on information and belief, that cost in 2010 dollars likely is as high as $30.00 per head, if not higher. However, applying Dr. Ringwall’s 2007 findings to all cattle – cows, bulls, and calves – the likely cost of the proposed rule to U.S. cattle producers ranges from $1,190,000,000 ($1.2 billion) to $1,890,000,000 ($1.9 billion) (70 million head of cattle multiplied by $17.00 per head and $27.00 per head, respectively).  Even if only the cattle moved to slaughter in 2010 were considered, the cost to U.S. cattle producers would be $924,723,000, or about $920 million (34.249 million head of commercial slaughter cattle multiplied by $27.00 per head).

 

Applying Dr. Ringwall’s findings to APHIS’ assertion that “[a]pproximately 20 percent of cattle are not currently eartagged as part of routine management practices” (see 76 Fed. Reg., 50097, col. 1) and based on the assumption that APHIS used the Jan. 1, 2011, U.S. cattle and calves inventory number of  92,582,400 head, it would cost U.S. cattle producers a high of nearly $500 million to tag the 20 percent of cattle not already tagged (20 percent of 92,582,400 cattle equals 18,516,480 cattle multiplied by $27 per head).

 

Using APHIS’ data relied on in its supporting document, only 3.1 million of the 35.685 million head annual calf crop is tagged with official identification.  Therefore, the cost of tagging the remaining 2010 calf crop would range from $554 million to $880 million.

 

Thus, based on an actual study of tagging actual cattle – not on a study of available literature upon which APHIS relies – the cost to U.S. cattle producers to comply with the proposed rule will likely be hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions of dollars. APHIS’ upper cost estimate for the proposed rule of only $34.3 million (see 76 Fed. Reg., 50097, cols. 2, 3) is based on a complete lack of understanding of the U.S. cattle industry, and it grossly understates the cost that U.S. cattle producers actually will bear if USDA does not immediately withdraw the proposed r! ule.

 

 

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

The Denver Post

As USDA turns to ear tags over brands, cattle ranchers fear end of tradition

Ordway rancher John Reid holds some of the irons he uses to brand livestock on his ranch, the Reid Cattle Co. The USDA is expected to release new interstate rules requiring individual cattle to be identified by a number stamped on an ear tag. (Aaron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post )

The future of the hot-iron brand, an icon of Western heritage, is at the center of a nearly decade-long battle over cattle identification and traceability.

“It’s the latest hot lightning rod,” said John Reid, an Ordway rancher who is past president of the Colorado Independent Cattle Growers Association.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is expected soon to release a draft of new regulations, which will remove the hot-iron brand from its list of official identification for cattle sold or shipped across state lines.

The new rules will require each animal to be identified by a number stamped on a removable ear tag.

States would still be able to use brands as official IDs within their boundaries.

Individual agreements between states can be reached to allow brands as official IDs for interstate movement — more complications.

Critics fear this is the beginning of the end for America’s centuries-old branding tradition.

“The federal government’s action sends a signal to the entire industry that the ear tag is a superior means of identification,” said Bill Bullard, chief executive of the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund.

Ranchers argue that ear tags can fall off or be stolen by thieves, so are not a good form of official ID.

State brand commissioner Rick Wahlert said nothing will change for the state’s cattle producers.

However, the new system is a critical element of participation in the interstate beef market, he said.

Negative reaction to the new rules, he said, “is really about change, and a fear of the government being in your business.”

Gerald Schreiber, a third-generation rancher in northeastern Colorado, already uses ear tags for identification within the herd but bristles at the new regulations.

“It sounds good on the surface, but anytime you get the Big Brother approach, I don’t trust it,” he said. “The brand has worked for 1000 years, I don’t know why they want to disregard it. In the West, branding is more than just a tradition; it’s our identity as ranches.”

First proposed in 2002, the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) was rolled out in 2004, but flatly rejected in USDA listening sessions by over 90% of the cattle producers.

Producers across the country are skeptical about the new program, which would require radio-frequency ear tags that would let cattle be tracked from slaughterhouse to birth.

Their concerns ranged from potential costs to confidentiality of information, including fears that animal-rights advocates would be able to gain information on ranchers through the use of the federal Freedom of Information Act.

“It got pretty ugly,” said Ordway rancher Reid.

From 2004 to 2009, the USDA spent $142 million on NAIS, according to a Congressional Research Service report to Congress. Because it was a voluntary program, less than 30 percent of cattle producers participated.

In February 2010, the USDA announced it was abandoning NAIS due to mass rejection by livestock producers. Now a new name and a new program has evolved called Animal Disease Traceability.

Loss of tradition

The draft of the proposed USDA rule was due in April but has been delayed. It is now expected to be released within weeks, followed by a 60- to 90-day period of public comment. It will take an additional 12 to 15 months before the final rule is released.

“Americans want two things,” Rohr said. “They want to know their food is safe, and they have an interest in knowing where their food comes from.”

Still, the plan to remove the hot-iron brand as an official method of ID across state lines has angered Westerners, who worry about a loss of tradition and the addition of more red tape to their businesses.

“The piece of the deal that is awfully hard for producers to understand is that most disease comes from meat processing plants more than individual cattle or cattle herds.” Reid said.

The brand is the oldest and more permanent form of herd identification, while ear tags, with their unique numbers, can easily fall off in brush and trucks where cattle frequent.

“So the question is,” said Reid, “do we need individual ID or is herd ID enough?”

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!

“So when you are told by the Meat and Livestock Association that our NLIS system is wonderful, or there is full traceability, they are not telling the truth.”

“We have alerted the Government to the situation but they argue the system is still being bedded down. In actual fact the percentage loss of traceability of Australian cattle herds is increasing over time.”


ABA has a beef with tags

Peter Weekes | 26th June 2010

MORE THAN a quarter of the cattle monitored by identification tags  are lost within the complex tracking system that costs $37 a head, a  summit heard yesterday.

At summit: At the Casino conference are Bill Bullard (left), CEO of R-Calf USA Ranches and Cattlemen Association, Australian Beef Association chairman Brad Bellinger, and ABA vice-chairwoman Linda Hewitt.

Doug Eton

MORE THAN a quarter of the cattle monitored by identification tags are lost within the complex tracking system that costs $37 a head, an Australian Beef Association summit heard yesterday.

The ABA’s chairman Brad Bellinger told a Casino meeting, which drew about 70 farmers from as far afield as Perth and Tasmania, the National Livestock Identification System that was foisted on cattle producers was ineffective and ‘potentially dangerous’.

The ABA recently commissioned an audit of 57,000 tags – the largest ever – to find out if the system allowed cattle to be traced back to the farm.

“The audit found 34.5 per cent did not have lifetime traceability,” Mr Bellinger said.

“So when you are told by the Meat and Livestock Association that our NLIS system is wonderful, or there is full traceability, they are not telling the truth.”

“We have alerted the Government to the situation but they argue the system is still being bedded down. In actual fact the percentage loss of traceability of Australian cattle herds is increasing over time.”

Mr Bellinger said the system’s failure was because of producer processes, not transferring cattle on the data base, tags failing out of the animals ears and being replaced by other and faulty reading equipment.

The National Livestock Identification System is Australia’s system for identification and traceability of live-stock. It was introduced in 1999 to meet European Union requirements for exports.

However, Mr Bellinger said the world’s largest beef exporter, Brazil, did not use any identification system.

He said the audit authors of Australia’s system found achieving lifetime traceability was unlikely to be ever achieved.

“To rely on NLIS for credible information to contain a highly contagious disease outbreak would be illusionary and potentially dangerous to the industry,” he said.

Mr Bellinger said the previous system of wrapping the animals’ tail around a tag and the accompanying paper trail was “more than adequate and a lot less costly”.

He also took aim at the industry’s body, the Meat and Livestock Association which has come under growing criticism since it supported the Federal Government’s recent attempts to allow imports of beef from mad-cow affected countries.

Only days before the nation’s boarders were to be opened, Federal Primary Industry Minister Tony Bourke did a back flip and, succumbing to cattle farmers’ demand for a full import risk analysis, effectively placed a two-year moratorium on lifting the import ban.

“After 13 years of an undemocratic meat industry structure, that has been shamelessly supported by both sides of politics, Australian cattle producers have had enough of trying to run enterprises with cattle prices unchanged in the last 20 years,” Mr Bellinger said.

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