Veterinarian Helps Ranchers With Livestock Tracking Program

US - A UC Davis veterinarian is helping California cattle producers learn the ropes of a new nationwide livestock tracking system that would help them avoid catastrophic losses in the event of a major animal disease outbreak.
calendar icon 1 March 2007
clock icon 2 minute read
John Maas, a Cooperative Extension veterinarian specializing in beef health and food safety at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, has been part of three groups that have presented more than 100 meetings on the new tracking system in California and throughout the United States.

The system was developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, state agricultural agencies and livestock producers after the 2001 foot-and-mouth epidemic in the United Kingdom. It is designed to help producers and animal-health officials respond quickly to an animal disease outbreak.

When fully implemented, the voluntary system should enable officials to identify all livestock owners and ranch managers within 48 hours if a disease outbreak puts their animals at risk. Ranchers with animals at risk could take preventive measures, and those not at risk would not be unnecessarily restricted.

"The beef industry is the largest and most complicated agricultural industry in the United States, especially in the West. With about 900,000 head living in California, beef cattle are at the forefront of the animal identification process," says Maas, who comes from a ranching background.

"Twenty-five percent of California's beef and dairy cattle producers have registered their premises at this time, and the number is presently increasing at a pretty good clip," he said.

In 2005, the USDA began implementing the program's first phase, which focuses on identifying all premises where livestock and poultry are born, handled, housed, managed, marketed, processed or exhibited.

Now in the second phase of implementing the three-part system, Maas is demonstrating for beef producers the electronic ear-tagging technology for identifying individual animals.

Tracking of animal movement will be the third and final component for the program, which eventually will involve all domesticated animals, including cattle, swine, sheep, goats, horses, poultry, bison, deer, elk, llamas, alpacas and farmed fish.

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