NC Supports U.S. CattleTrace

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Nebraska Cattlemen (NC) has had a long-term policy in support of animal disease traceability housed in the Animal Health and Nutrition Committee. Whether the disease is tuberculosis, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or the bigger, scarier one – foot and mouth disease – the best way to protect the nation’s cattle herd health is to be able to trace where the disease came from and which animals came in contact with diseased animals.

Additionally, the costs to make tracebacks using hand-written health papers or brand papers stored in boxes or filing cabinets is exorbitant and time consuming. Many times, there is no way to prevent a traceback from wasting valuable and limiting state and federal resources.

It is expensive for producers as well. If a trace cannot determine where the disease came from, the herd is quarantined and retested until it is free of disease. Cattle get injured, labor costs go up and, many times, valuable genetics are lost. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) no longer has the funds to depopulate positive herds, resulting in no payments made to producers.

It is hard to estimate the cost of trade when we cannot quickly determine the movement of possible diseased animals. It took more than a decade to regain lost export trade following the BSE “cow that stole Christmas” in 2003. The United States is one of only two beef exporting countries without a disease traceability system. The other country is India. Most countries were forced to implement a system under duress due to loss of trade, and their governments put together programs that are not always the most sensible to producers.

Some Kansas producers initiated a pilot project called CattleTrace to determine how the cattle industry can reach 70 percent traceability, the magic number analysists have determined is the saturation level that is considered statistically relevant for adequate traceability. The project provided cattle producers with tags that livestock auction markets, feedlots and packing facilities can track. The intent was to determine how many times they were able to get a “sighting” of the numbers as they passed through the system. The information captured is minimal and proprietary.

As other states came on board, including Florida, Kentucky and Texas, U.S. CattleTrace was formed in January 2020. It is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that is producer driven and completely voluntary. The information collected is not subject to Freedom of Information Act requests as government-held data would be. With a producer board of directors, it will meet the needs of producers. By developing a voluntary system, the hope is to avoid a mandatory regulation in the future.

To date, the CattleTrace reader network includes 13 livestock auction markets in Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Virginia; two backgrounders in Kansas and Nebraska; 15 feedyards in Kansas, Washington and Oregon; and three major packers in Kansas. The organization has distributed 70,000 tags and has 300,000 reads in the database. This spring, the Nebraska Cattlemen Board of Directors voted to support U.S. CattleTrace. NC wanted to off er something to members who want to develop their traceability eff orts. “We need to have a system that is better at tracking down diseased animals and their cohorts,” says Jeff Fox, DVM, NC Animal Health and Nutrition Committee chair. “U.S. CattleTrace is a producer-driven program and it has a lot of interest. It is the best game in town, right now.” U.S. CattleTrace is working to expand the program with more readers and partnerships. The goal is to build the infrastructure and organizational structure so the program is fully operational starting Jan. 1, 2023. We encourage members who are interested in being a part of the disease traceability solution to learn more by visiting www.USCattleTrace.org, emailing info@UScattletrace.org or calling (785) 564-7446.

Written By: Melody Benjamin, NC Vice President of Member Services

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