A bug in their ears? New tracking device may help protect health of nation's livestock

US - Michigan will become the first state in the nation to require every beef and dairy cow to wear a permanent radio-frequency-identification ear tag that tracks each animal from its farm of origin to slaughter.
calendar icon 23 February 2007
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The system, to begin next month, is used in other countries to help to quash outbreak of disease; if an animal turns up sick, officials can quickly trace its movements to locate other animals that may have been exposed.

For consumers, the new system offers an increased level of biosecurity.

For Michigan livestock producers, it's a matter of dollars and cents.

And for the nation, it could be the future of the livestock industry.

Since the fall of 1998, when bovine tuberculosis showed up in cows in a few counties in the northeastern Lower Peninsula, every livestock farm in the state has been required by the federal government to prove animals are healthy before they can be moved from one location to another.

The regulation has hampered cattle sales within the state and from Michigan to other states and has cost farmers millions, officials say.

``In nine years, we've tested 1.25 million head of cattle at an expense to the government (which has subsidized some of the testing) of more than $100 million and expense to farmers of more than $200 million,'' said St. Joseph County farmer, county commissioner and former Michigan Cattlemen's Association president Monte Bordner.

But the radio-frequency-identification -- or RFID -- system, state agriculture officials say, should allow those restrictions to be eased.

Farmers in the Upper Peninsula, which was isolated from the bovine tuberculosis outbreak, adopted RFID tags to track their animals and were granted disease-free status by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in October 2005.

Source: Stackyard
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