Rather than lean toward electronic ID, a voluntary system and a single federal database as NAIS did, ADT revolves around mandatory ID for cattle moving between states, using old, reliable, albeit slower technology: Brite tags think here of those metal clip tags used for calfhood vaccinates ; a paper trail of Interstate Certificates of Veterinary Inspection ICVI ; and state animal health databases. Cost was a key sticking point to NAIS. It could be with ADT, too. Even with tags provided, other costs include the time and labor of tagging, as well as potential costs associated with the ICVI if accredited veterinarians are the only ones who can sign the papers.
Among other points to watch for in the proposed rule — USDA plans to publish it in April — is the timing.
Participants at an August strategy forum, which was hosted by the U. The eradication programs for bovine tuberculosis and Brucellosis long served as the de facto national ID program for cattle.
National Animal Identification System
Among poultry, avian influenza is the most obvious disease threat. Yet it spreads so rapidly in confinement chicken facilities that an entire building - hundreds of thousands of birds - can be infected quickly, and it requires a much shorter response time than 48 hours. In the case of a disease with a long incubation period, such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy aka mad cow disease , animal tracking may identify cows that shared the same location years ago.
But control of the disease requires culling affected animals, and the only way to determine if an animal is affected is a lab test of brain tissue after death. It would be far easier and cheaper to simply test every cow upon slaughter, before releasing the beef into the food supply.
National Animal ID System--National Animal Identification System (NAIS) | Beef Magazine
Mandatory livestock ID would do nothing to help control food-borne diseases. Cases of E. If the program does not serve the goals of disease prevention or control, then why is the USDA proposing it? To answer that, critics have looked to where the program originated, and whom it benefits. Their interests in such a program are pretty clear.
No one knows exactly how many animals would be affected by mandatory animal ID, but starting with the nation's 63 million hogs, 97 million cows, million laying hens and 9 billion chickens for meat, the market is vast. Other members of NIAA are meat producers, and their interest in the ID plan is harder to discern - until you understand their dependence on factory farming and exports.
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Factory farming. These producers are not farmers in any normal sense. They are large corporations that raise, kill and process animals on a massive scale. The term "factory farm" has sometimes been applied to their operations, but more descriptive is the USDA's jargon, "concentrated animal feeding operation," or CAFO.
These are huge facilities where animals are penned or caged by the thousands. Poultry andhogs are raised entirely indoors. Beef cattle are confined in feedlots. Feed grown elsewhere is brought in and distributed to the animals mechanically; manure is scraped or pumped out and stored in large lagoons or discharged into waterways. Systems are automatic and computer controlled; animals are identified by individual or by lot; everything is monitored.
Thus to factory farm owners, the animal ID requirements are not an additional burden - these costs are already a part of doing business. Meat exporting. These producers sell much of their product into export markets. Before the case of mad cow in the United States, Japan imported more than , tons of U. This was high-value beef, too, priced 33 percent per pound higher than beef exported to other nations.
After the mad cow discovery, Japan shut down imports of U. Since , because of this disease concern, U. The big corporations that dominate U. A program such as the animal ID plan makes the United States appear serious about preventing disease, whatever the reality.
So, if the federal animal ID program is designed in a way that imposes few new costs on factory farms and bolsters their export market by giving the perception of safety to foreign meat buyers, how does the program sit with small farmers and backyard animal raisers? Very badly, as it turns out, for several reasons.
It's too expensive. Whereas factory farms can take advantage of group or lot registration, and already are monitoring and tracking animals, the federal program would impose serious new costs for most small livestock operations. The USDA's draft plan avoided estimating the costs to producers of implementing the system. But some back-of-the-envelope calculations, based largely on existing devices for cattle identification, give us an idea of the potential costs. Reporting animal movements would probably be done on the Internet, and would involve costs for Internet access, subscription fees to access the database, and time to do the work.
One difficulty with these costs for small farmers is that so much of the expense is fixed. Whether you have one cow or 20, you will still need a reader, Internet access and database subscription. This is due to the biological limitations of bovine reproduction. The rate of reproduction in cattle continues to be stable and low, with one cow rarely producing more than one calf. By comparison, the U. Genetic advances and the adoption of industrialized confinement production by the hog industry in the post-World War II era led to dramatic increases in productivity, decreases in real hog prices, and industry concentration.
The lack of equivalent productivity gains in beef cattle production are reflected in the much less drastic decrease in the real purchasing power of the calf commodity over the last half century, and an unconcentrated cow-calf sector. The nature of the bovine digestive system also has contributed to relatively low productivity gains and limited adoption of capital and management intensive technologies in U. Land-extensive calf production processes continue to be used in much of the cow-calf sector because the beef animal functions as a scavenger, using and transforming low value forages produced on marginal lands into a higher-valued product.
Land-extensive production processes are generally not compatible with management intensive technologies, adoption of which is driven by the need and opportunity to increase returns per unit of capital and management input. Most of the advances in technology and increases in efficiency in the beef industry have occurred beyond the farm gate at the feeding and packing levels. The feedlot and meat packing sectors have dramatically increased in size and concentration to achieve economies of scale.
The beef cow-calf sector is the foundation of the beef cattle industry. Cow-calf production is not concentrated, dispersed nationwide, and occurs in every state, with an estimated 33 million national beef cow inventory living on almost , farms and ranches USDA-NASS, Cow-calf operations produce the calves or the animal frames - including skeleton, internal organs, and hide upon which the cattle feeding sector accumulates meat using higher energy feed resources usually under confinement conditions.
Management of non-primary income herds is consistently less intensive, and productivity indicators for the herds are less favorable. The technologies used in cow-calf production have not changed greatly over the last century, although some advances in cow-calf productivity have been made through selective breeding, use of veterinary pharmaceuticals, and improved forage management. Cow-calf production in the United States continues to be characterized by low entry costs, low cash production costs, low technology requirements, and low management intensity.
The technological stability of the U. By comparison, the average size of a U. Most research exploring U. Similarly, Cash noted that most U. The multiple roles of livestock in traditional societies have long been recognized by anthropologists, human ecologists, and other social scientists. In traditional societies, livestock are mobile stores of wealth and status. For many cow-calf producers, cattle and the land used to produce them are investments, savings, and financial safe-havens.
Cattle provide emergency funds, and are also a stable supply of high quality meat for family consumption. Similar to their counterparts in traditional societies, cattle are also a source of identity and a cultural touchstone for many U. Lifestyle goals, particularly the desire to live in the country, were the most highly ranked strategic ranch goals among small-acreage livestock producers interviewed by Rowan Technological advances, structural adjustment in response to technology, economies of size, and the wringing out of cultural identity objectives have not occurred at the cow-calf producer level as they occurred throughout much of U.
As a result, household-level cow-calf production has maintained more of its traditional economic, social, and cultural character than any other geographically dispersed agricultural commodity sector in the United States today. The trend of fewer numbers of ever-larger beef feeding and packing operations throughout the United States has led many cow-calf producers to be concerned about the structure of the overall beef industry, the negative effects of downstream concentration, and their belief that they are at the losing end of the structural change.
Many believe that prices received by cow-calf producers are depressed as a result of non-competitive market behavior by feeders and packers. Domestic cow-calf producers feel threatened by the market impacts of imported feeder cattle from Mexico and imported fed cattle from Canada. Live cattle imports are viewed favorably by a majority of feeders and packers, who generally welcome the flow of the animals into the U.
COOL was opposed by feeders and packers as a result of their integration with the rest of the North American as well as the global cattle-beef markets. R-CALF consistently appeals to cow-calf industry fears about trade liberalization and global market integration, property rights erosion, loss of freedoms, and invasions of privacy. Although originally conceived as a means to deal with animal health emergencies zoonotic and otherwise , NAIS proponents and technology vendors consistently emphasized the valuable management benefits to producers from individual animal identification and performance record keeping particularly in their RFID and electronic forms.
NAIS proponents and technology vendors have assumed that management intensification and the tools to accomplish it are desired by producers. However, cow-calf production is an intrinsically low-management intensity activity. It is a land-extensive activity and one where it is often not desirable, necessary, or feasible for producers to increase management intensity or capital investments. This justification has not been well received by cow-calf producers who believe international trade is a threat to their industry.
In their opinion, shutting off beef exports would be a small price to pay for shutting off the live cattle imports with which they directly compete. Much of cow-calf producer opposition to NAIS was founded on fears that they would pay for the NAIS while the feeding and packing sectors would benefit from animal tracking and performance information derived from the electronic data.
He and the broad complex of government animal health personnel, large agribusiness interests particularly feeders and packers , and established industry associations failed to appreciate the deep distrust many cattle producers have of them.
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