Animal Identification: The Basics of Protecting our Livestock Animal Identification is an important part of safety in our food supply chain. With an implemented animal traceability system, it enables authorities to effectively trace back animals to their point of origin. This is extremely important during a disease outbreak, such as Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or Mad Cow Disease, the affected livestock, whether it is beef cattle or sheep can be traced back to its original farm, and gives exact data of which animals the affected animal was in direct contact with, so those animals can be quarantined, and further tested. This also proves to be cost effective, as an entire herd at a feedlot, does not have to be destroyed. An average feedlot at any given time has between 200 to 3000 heads of cattle, all depending on the size of the feedlot. This can enable a beef cattle rancher to segregate possibly just 50 heads of cattle for testing, instead of the entire herd. Even testing has a cost per head, with an average of $10 to $50 per animal. Animal Identification can be done with several methods, the oldest and most cost effective to the beef cattle producer is the visual ear tag. Although there are other methods such as tattoo, metal ear tags (mostly for sheep and goats) and Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) ear tag. The RFID ear tag is the most effective form of animal identification, and has many benefits for animal traceability, as well as cost effective benefits for the cattle rancher. RFID cattle ear tags have a unique identification number, which will never be duplicated, so this eliminates human error. The RFID ear tags can also be read at an extremely fast rate, with a hand held RFID reader, or fixed RFID reader. RFID ear tags also give a wealth of information very quickly. When used with basic cattle management or livestock software, a ton of information can be recorded and retrieved quickly through the software. Information such as date of birth, vaccinations the animal had received, gestation period, etc., all can be retrieved by simply reading the RFID ear tag, and making a simple enquiry through the cattle or livestock software. Many livestock producers have been against any form or type of Animal Identification Systems, claiming it is a violation of their rights, and added cost per head to their operations, and so on. But there is a great deal of benefits to producers. Livestock producers, just need to be educated more on the technology, and the benefits it could add to their operations, and the added value it could bring to their animals, on a per head basis. Animal Identification is an important part of safety in our food supply chain. With an implemented animal traceability system it is beneficial to everyone, from livestock producers, to the customer who purchases meat products at their local supermarket.
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