Pilot project aims to provide computerization to Wyo livestock auctions
Casper – At the most recent meeting of the Wyoming Traceability Working Group on March 7, attendees reviewed the current pilot project involving the computerization of the Riverton and Worland auction markets.
“At a sale several weeks ago, the first computerized brand inspection was done in Wyoming,” commented Assistant State Veterinarian Bob Meyer. “We have all the records and everything from the sale in a database.”
The pilot project started just over a year ago with two goals in mind: to capture brand inspection information and health inspection data from local livestock markets in a searchable and electronic form.
The structure of the project utilizes two software systems offering a brand inspection platform and a platform for electronic certificates of veterinary health inspection.
Both systems aim to collect data and utilize local area networks to upload the information to a centralized database as soon as it is collected.
“In our first goal, we are trying to go from a manual system of writing brand inspection certificates to capturing them on a handheld computer,” said Meyer, “and put the information in a database.”
In utilizing a database, Meyer noted that following a sale, cattle buyers will be able to acquire the brand inspection by printing it out, rather than preparing a handwritten inspection.
Brand inspectors in the markets have utilized the system in several ways and have found some places where the system needs improvements.
“I carry a yard book and do my inspections in my yard book,” said Hot Spring County Brand Inspector Tom Christensen. “When I go back to the office, I enter the information into the computer. The goal was for us to carry those in the yard and do that as we go, but I can’t see that happening right away.”
“They are handy little tools,” said Christensen, noting that it is difficult, however to utilize the screen while inspecting cattle, especially since brand inspectors are still familiarizing themselves with the software and devices.
Another area that provides a useful database for brand inspectors is in the brand book, which is downloaded onto each handheld device.
“It allows brand inspectors to bring up the brands on the device,” said Meyer.
One place that the system needs improvement, according to Christensen, is in incorporating back tags, and the Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) is continually working with the software company to address those areas that do not yet meet brand inspectors’ needs.
At the end of the day, traceability is one of the biggest reasons for the computerization for the WLSB. In auction markets, identifying cattle and being able to retrieve health records is very important, particularly for those animals coming from the Designated Surveillance Area.
“On the animal health side, the cattle that need to be bled and identified, and also those that are being preg checked, can be recorded as they go through the chute,” explained Meyer. “The other part of our goal is to not only capture that information, but also to print test charts to go along with blood samples.”
Additionally, he noted that in electronically capturing information, distributing health certificates to buyers following a sale is much easier, regardless of whether cattle came from a single owner and single lot or originated from multiple ranches. As with brand inspections, health certificates can be printed from the database.
Evolution of the project
While computerization has been a goal of the WLSB for nearly 15 years, utilizing the systems in the livestock markets has only begun this year.
“We started the project at both the Riverton and Worland markets,” explained Meyer.
After selecting a software company to orchestrate the computerization, the WLSB began to customize their system to work in Wyoming’s auctions.
“We aren’t the first state to do this,” said Meyer, adding that the WLSB, however, requires some different aspects in the system.
While the project also aims to maintain the speed of commerce in the wake of new federal identification requirements, there are also changes that will need to be made in the system before increased speed can be achieved.
“Right now it isn’t saving any time,” said Christensen, “but that is because we are pretty computer illiterate.”
Christensen also noted that with familiarity, it will allow benefits.
“In the long run, it will save time, because at the end of the sale we already have reports generated,” he explained. “We don’t have to go home and go through all of the brand inspections.”
“As our inspectors get more confident with the system, it should save time in the markets,” said Meyer. “That is part of the learning experience.”
As the system is developed, Meyer noted that they will continue to make adjustments so it accomplishes the necessary goals in Wyoming markets.
“This is a tool we are using,” said Meyer. “It is only as good as the data going in. We are trying to develop these tools to see what might work to help us ease the movement of cattle.”
WLSB Director Leanne Correll also added that as computerization of the rest of the WLSB continues, the auction market computerization will also mesh with the system.
“We are going to take it a step further, and all the information will download to a system in Cheyenne, where we have a master database,” said Correll. “If we need to trace something back, we can get it done a lot faster and easier.”
“Have we got it all completely working right? Not yet,” said Meyer. “As we put more data in, we find more bugs, and the company tweaks the program. Are we 100 percent ready to go statewide with the system? No, but we are starting to generate a program that will work.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.