Editorial comment: Private livestock ID is a must for every producer of large numbers, for all types of data needed to be professional. A system that allows the owner private access to all data is totally different than the ill-fated NAIS program where the government held private access to all producer’s data. Although there is widespread support for voluntary owner high tech data there is minimal support for forced government data control and enforcement by governments for non compliance to their demands. All NAIS data was and is non accessible by livestock owners. Please note there is a major difference. DD
Electronic ID discovers home on the range
John Seelmeyer, 5/31/2010
Tom Filbin needs to keep careful track of more than 3,000 head of sheep at the Rafter 7 Sheep Ranch along the East Walker River near Yerington. Breed-research programs jointly sponsored by the University of Nevada, Reno, College of Agriculture and the ranch owner, the Edwin L. Wiegand Trust, look to develop more profitable sheep for wool producers in the Western states.
And that requires careful accounting of the genetics and history of every animal.
Filbin’s staff at Rafter 7 has turned to technology — radio frequency identification tags — to provide efficient and accurate information about individual animals.
The tags, similar to those used by technologically savvy distribution centers to track merchandise as it moves through a warehouse, allow ranch staff to use an electronic scanner to identify individual animals.
And although the high hopes of makers of electronic tags were set back by the federal government this winter, the high-tech tags continue to find a niche.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, faced with strong resistance from ranchers and farmers nationwide, decided in February to scrap its proposed National Animal Identification System.
That system, intended to provide quick tracking of livestock in case of an outbreak of animal disease, was expected to drive widespread adoption of electronic systems.
The market cratered when the USDA pulled back from the proposed standard.
“It’s a depressed market,” says Jay McCown, founder of Ranger ID Technologies, a Mountain Home, Idaho, company that develops and markets electronic identification systems for livestock. But market hasn’t disappeared.
“What we’re left with is niches all over the place,” says McCown. One niche, he says, is found in operations such as Rafter 7 Sheep Ranch, where accurate records are the cornerstone of breed-improvement initiatives.
Says Rafter 7’s Filbin: “It’s the best technology as far as accuracy. The more you can have on a computer, the better job you can do.” The cost — about $2 a head, plus software and hardware — isn’t inexpensive, but Filbin says the operational convenience and accurate records make the system co-effective.
When Rafter 7 began using the tags, some staff wondered if the electronic devices would be lost as sheep grazed in open range and encountered fences and corrals.
David Thain, Nevada’s state extension veterinarian in the department of animal biotechnology at UNR, says some of livestock operations in the state have moved to electronic identification as a means of maintaining records — and to help track the source of animals after they’re sold.