My Journey with Animal Disease Traceability

Like most producers, 2003 and the cow that stole Christmas brought home the need for animal disease traceability. The shock, the financial impact, the length of time it took the market to rebound were really eye opening to me. It was really a life changing moment because for the first time it dawned on me how vulnerable the cattle industry was to foreign animal disease in a tangible and painful way.

As shocking as that event was it wasn’t the nail in the coffin, slam the door, deal closed moment for me. That happened for me when we actually started using RFID in our own operation. We are all coin operated, and due to BSE, there was now a market premium available for “age and source cattle” of up to $70.00/hd. I’m no brilliant mathematician but I was able to compare the cost of a LF RFID tag to that available premium and decide…hey this a good deal! Over the next few years that premium declined and evaporated. But as it withered and died, our understanding of RFID and its benefits to our operation blossomed. Our individual cattle records were immediately available, we could make culling decisions chute side based on accurate historical performance data. We could preprint pasture inventory prior to working cattle so that we immediately knew if our inventory was correct or who was missing as we processed them, etc. The benefits and value of RFID as a management tool greatly surpassed the cost of the technology. It was and is firmly entrenched in our cattle operation because it is so valuable.

The light bulb moment for me was when all the sudden I realized how valuable and simple RFID could be if we used it to improve our ability to trace animals. So simple to use and so simple to incorporate. The other attribute that really jumped out was the accuracy. All those years of using hand written records certainly worked, but my penmanship is medically inclined, it is pitiful. Life got better for all us with electronic records…much more accurate, much faster, and with the touch of a finger tons of helpful reports available to help us.

All this ultimately led to my growing passion to improve and enhance Animal Disease Traceability. I realized just how backwards our current system was and how easily we could improve it…embrace the technology.