Industry debates consolidation effect on National Animal ID

US - Traceability - it's the short name for a very long road to a National Animal Identification System. A system to “trace” animal disease back to its source within 48 hours of discovery has been the mega-theme of the U.S. Department of Agriculture since the program was introduced in April, 2004.
calendar icon 5 February 2007
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Yet disease traceability is sometimes sidelined when considering what the economic impact NAIS will be to the nation's cattle producers. The cost of Radio Frequency Identification ear tags, software, hardware, computers and radio frequency equipment to implement the system cannot be ignored.

Registered Angus cattle producer, Troy Marshall, Burlington, Colo., said NAIS could lead to further consolidation in the cattle industry. Marshall, who is also the editor/publisher of the Feedstock Digest, said large cattle feeders are in a better position to “shoulder the cost” of the USDA's proposed animal identification system.

Marshall speculates that producers who depend on profits from an average-size herd will be more economically at risk than those with small herds.

“Anyone under 200-250 head may not necessarily be profit oriented and can make up losses on corn, bean or other crops they grow,” he said. “They can take the losses and keep on producing.”

Traceability appears to equate more to marketability, as Marshall points to end-user or consumer demand for information about the food they eat.

“Brands have become a driving force in beef marketing,” he said. “There's little doubt integrated entities and larger production systems have been much better positioned to take advantage of these new demands.”

But Lloyd Knight, executive vice president of the Idaho Cattle Association, said consolidation in the industry is nothing new.

“Consolidation has been happening since the 1950s,” he said. “The NAIS is not what is making it happen.”

Source: Farm & Ranch Guide
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