Southwest rolls out stock ID

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Mar 7, 2005
by WLJ
A program to register and identify livestock is being launched in Arizona to help quickly trace the origin of diseased animals.
The Tri-National Livestock Health and Identification Consortium will begin as a voluntary program but will eventually be required of all livestock breeders and owners, said Katie Decker, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Department of Agriculture. Arizona will join Colorado, New Mexico and two Mexican states in the pilot program.
"It's consumer-driven. The consumer wants food safety," she said.
The program is being spearheaded by agricultural officials in Colorado, Decker said, and Arizona will sign an agreement later this month to participate.
Larger animals will have radio frequency identification tags implanted in their ears. Smaller animals will be tagged differently, but officials haven't yet decided how.
The identification system, which will allow authorities to trace the origin of an infected animal within 48 hours, will eventually apply to all but domesticated pets, Decker said.
Arizona officials hope to get at least 20% of the state's food producers to participate by the end of the year, said Albert A. Davis, a project specialist with the state agriculture department.
Some breeders have already objected to the program, however.
"Privacy is a grave concern to ranchers. They don't want their competitors to know their numbers (of cattle)," Davis said.
But only the state veterinarian will be given access to the database, and access will be restricted to times when an animal is diagnosed with an infectious disease, like tuberculosis or BSE, Davis said.
At least one local cattleman said he plans to sign up his company for the program.
"I'm all for it," said Scott Shill, cattle and feedlot manager for Wellton-based McElhaney Cattle Co. "It will improve our ability to track diseases and any kind of problem with the system.”
The USDA is expected to eventually require all livestock owners to participate but no date has yet been set. — WLJ