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Agriculture Today

Cattlemen question the scope of state ID program

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Wilson County News
October 26, 2011 | 2,635 views | Post a comment

As Texas is going through a major drought with large numbers of cattle being sent to the auction barns, economics is a primary concern for cattlemen. In the farm equation, ranchers may now have to add the cost of tagging at markets, due to a proposed state animal disease traceability program, similar to one currently being proposed on the federal level. Two ag groups have chimed in on the state proposal being discussed, with the comment submission deadline being Wednesday, Dec. 7. See related article, left.

The tagging and documentation of all breeding animals, as proposed by the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), is a concern of the Independent Cattlemen’s Association of Texas (ICA).

ICA Executive Director Bill Hyman briefly informed members of the South Central Texas Chapter of the Independent Cattlemen’s Association of the proposed state rules during the group’s Oct. 18 quarterly meeting in Falls City. Hyman answered additional questions regarding this issue in an Oct. 19 interview.

Hyman said the Texas ICA is suggesting that state officials tag and record only the cattle that will not be slaughtered and not all animals, as proposed.

“Along with LMAT [Livestock Marketing Association of Texas], the adult cattle going to slaughter are the bulk of the adult cattle sales. They are identified with a USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] back tag,” Hyman said Oct. 19. “The proposed tagging rules written by USDA also support the use of back tags to identify adult cattle destined for slaughter both inside the state and between states.”

Regarding rodeo cattle and bison rules included in the proposal, Hyman said the state ICA is supportive of this, because of the USDA proposed ruling.

“The rodeo cattle are included because many of the cattle originate from Mexico,” Hyman explained, and these cattle “tend to be transported quite frequently around the state.”

Hyman addressed the cattlemen in Falls City about the challenges of reading and recording the number from Brite tags, especially since tags already placed will have to be read manually.

He reminded the cattlemen that the State Animal Health Commission is receiving less funding, and said the data, according to Dr. Dee Ellis, state veterinarian with the Texas Animal Health Commission, will be “boxed and archived.” Hyman added, “Copies will be kept at each of the respective sale barns.”

Hyman said the ICA and several other ag groups were set to meet with Dr. Ellis on Oct. 25 and offer “alternative suggestions” to the proposed traceability plan. The ICA also will submit comments on the proposed rules to the TAHC board later.

It has been said that the USDA will provide the tags needed for this purpose. One area concerning cattlemen is the cost involved, since the TAHC has made major cuts, due to diminished state funding.

“Whether or not the fee will be charged to buyer or seller is undecided,” Hyman said. “I would imagine that any additional costs will be borne by the livestock markets and the buyers and sellers.” Hyman said in some states there is no charge, while in other states, the cost is up to $7 per head, charged by the auction barns.

“Hopefully we can work to implement a system that does not impede the speed of commerce and is as least cost as possible,” Hyman said. The “ICA will continue to work to make sure the rancher does not foot the bill for the industry.”

The ICA is not the only ag organization reviewing the proposed rules. Judith McGeary, executive director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, echoed Hyman’s comments.

“At a time when Texas cattle producers are going out of business in large numbers due to the extreme drought, the TAHC [Texas Animal Health Commission] is proposing new fees as well as new requirements for sales barns to tag cattle, a step that will undoubtedly increase costs for producers,” McGeary said Oct. 18. “While markets have been identifying adult breeder cattle as part of the brucellosis program, the proposed rule goes further and imposes overly broad and ambiguous requirements for dairy and event cattle.”

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