Tracing Cattle, Working group continues to seek traceability solution
Riverton – The Wyoming Traceability Working Group (TWG) was established in 2010 to address Wyoming’s ability to both trace back disease outbreaks to their origin and to trace livestock movement forward to identify those animals that have contact with an infected animal.
Through several meetings over three years, the working group has made some progress, but traceability continues to be a sticking point within the industry.
As a result, an April 16 meeting was held in Riverton to determine the direction of traceability in Wyoming moving forward.
Wyoming State Veterinarian Jim Logan asked attendees, “Where do we go? We can stay with the status quo if we are happy, or we can pursue legislation and funding for other programs if the working group decides we should look at further options.”
In meeting as a working group, Logan said he needed industry input to determine what to report to the Wyoming Legislature Joint Committee on Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources (Joint Ag Committee).
In both 2011 and 2012, bills were introduced to the legislature, both of which failed.
“I think one of the reasons the bills failed is that we had the cart before the horse,” commented Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) member Donna Baldwin-Hunt. “We are just now getting our computer system up and running so it communicates with all the offices.”
She continued, “I think that to try to ask for funding to supply tags and equipment before we are ready to implement a program might result in failure. I think, again, we are getting the cart in front of the horse.”
Baldwin-Hunt also advocated for increased interaction with industry to determine what producers feel and if they support traceability efforts.
“From my perspective, the 2011 bill is a good starting point to have a discussion,” added Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President Jim Magagna. “I think we need to go out to industry, but not to have a broad discussion. I think we need to have something more concrete.”
Senator Gerald Geis of Worland encouraged the working group members to bring ideas to the Joint Ag Committee meeting, where a bill could be drafted. The bill would allow a concrete idea to be created for further discussion.
“We’ll consider a bill,” he said, “and if we can get one drafted, we have until our September meeting to discuss it before we have to make a final decision and add the dollar values.”
“If we could provide veterinarians and sale barns to buy the equipment or to help reimburse them when they buy equipment,” suggested WLSB member Liz Philp.
“At our January meeting, I made the motion to seek other funding for sale barns,” added Baldwin-Hunt. “I felt like that was a sensible place to start.”
However, Baldwin-Hunt added, “While looking for funding, we have said this is a voluntary program. Producers have a voluntary program now. If we help the sale barns, that helps everyone.”
Producers in the meeting also agreed that equipping sale barns with the technology would provide the opportunity for producers using the tags to see benefits.
Jeff Brown of Riverton Livestock Auction commented, “This is about traceability and a way to accomplish our goals. Can we improve traceability? Yes. Do we need to improve it? I don’t know.”
“We are already spending money on this technology,” Brown adds. “This technology looks fairly affordable for larger operations. The problem isn’t the cost of the tags or the readers. The problem is getting the tags in calves.”
Discussions about providing incentives for producers and veterinarians were also held.
Brown said, “The real incentive is time and labor savings. We run a business and those are the incentives.”
“I like the idea of a Wyoming traceability program,” Brown continued.
Rock River producer Scott Sims added, “This is about disease traceability. If we can trace diseases and protect ourselves as producers so disease events don’t have a devastating effect on us, that is a good idea.”
He also commented that sale barns funding equipment means that costs would come back to producers. Citizens of the state should also have a responsibility, if a state program is developed.
Padlock Ranch’s Trey Patterson says, “I think Wyoming needs a program, and our industry needs to work aggressively. This is not about costs or regulations. It is about protecting the ability to move and market our cattle from Wyoming.”
Patterson viewed the significance of costs in traceability in the success rate of current technology – including reading ability of RFID tags and retention of tags.
“I would recommend moving forward with a partnership between beef producers, industry and the state to do some research and demonstration on products and protocols that accomplish being able to record animals in a way that does not add significant time or labor,” Patterson added.
The need in the industry is for reliable technology in terms of tags and equipment.
After discussion, the TWG decided to recommend that the Legislature’s Joint Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Committee draft a bill covering equipment funding and a pilot project.
The group looks for the bill to include provisions to provide funding for veterinarians and sale barns to have access to technology.
“I’m not suggesting that we ask for $1 million to build some kind of convoluted program,” says Logan. “I’ve heard from this group that helping the markets and veterinarians to be able to utilize the technology when applicable and bring it back to where it can interface with WLSB capabilities would be advantageous.”
Additionally, Logan marked that he will also recommend that the legislature fund a pilot project involving the livestock industry, technology industry and the state to research the technology and make sure it works for the industry.
Logan will present the information to the Joint Ag Committee at their April 22-23 meeting in Worland.
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wyoming State Veterinarian Jim Logan said, “As part of USDA’s standards, states need to do traceability exercises if they accept federal grant money. We are not mandated to do a traceability test because we did not pursue that funding, but we wanted to do exercises to assess our capabilities.”
In their exercise, Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) Interim Director Doug Miyamoto noted several observations.
“The first thing I learned is that we can’t replicate a real emergency situation,” he commented. “Doing drills like this doesn’t work well because our urgency is not matched by the other states and agencies that we cooperate with.”
Additionally, Miyamoto noted, “We do have to rely on a number of other people to get the information we need for traceability.”
After being asked to trace three official animal identification numbers, Miyamoto says they were able to trace one completely back to the ranch and get close on the other two.
“We can do a decent job if the cattle stay in state,” he adds. “The drill also gave us insight on what we can do to make things more efficient.”
Logan further emphasized that, in Wyoming, he estimated 90 percent of better success on traces in the past.
“We have been able to find what we are looking for most of the time, but the situations that occur when we can’t cause us really big problems,” Logan said.