Cattlemen push back against radio eartags

SCCA, CPoW submit comments against proposal

In an effort to ensure their industry isn’t burdened with a costly mandate that could negatively impact family ranches, the Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association and the Cattle Producers of Washington have submitted comments against Radio Frequency Identification tags.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is planning to approve Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) as the official eartag for use in interstate movement of cattle that are required to be identified by the traceability regulations.

An official eartag is defined as an identification tag approved by APHIS that bears an official identification number for individual animals.  Regulations allow APHIS to approve tags that can be used as official identification. Both metal and RFID tags are current options.

APHIS claims that RFID tags would support APHIS’ ongoing efforts to increase animal disease traceability by more accurately and rapidly allowing animal health officials to know where affected and at-risk animals are located.

However, cattlemen argue mandating RFID tags is unnecessary and problematic.

“This mandate would force additional cost upon our members, be less accurate in regards of long-term retention, and would also require that producers register their premises with the USDA, of which regulation we are also opposed to,” both groups noted in their comments. “The proposal will force us to incur costs that the current cattle market cannot absorb; and furthermore, we feel that it invades our rights to privacy.”

The groups note that cattlemen should have a choice regarding what form of identification they choose to use for their animals.

SCCA member and area cattleman George Wishon said along with the RFID tags being prohibitively expensive, as much as $2-$3 per tag, they are not suited to range cattle operations.

“Right now even metal ear clips that are used still have 10 to 15 percent of cattle losing the metal clip,” Wishon noted. “The retention rate for RFID tags is only 15 to 20 percent, meaning nearly 80 percent of all cattle with RFID tags will lose them.”

In addition to the impracticality, Wishon said cattlemen are concerned about the regulation that a premise ID, or an identification number for each property cattle graze on, would also be required.

“We will have cattlemen losing their leases because the landowners will not want to deal with that reporting requirement,” he said. The comment period for the regulation closed Oct. 5. APHIS is expected to determine in the coming weeks if RFID tags will become the official eartag for the interstate movement of cattle

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