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Ranchers Have Beef With USDA Program To ID Cattle 376

Posted by kdawson
from the chipping-in dept.
Ponca City, We Love You writes "The NY Times reports that farmers and ranchers oppose a government program to identify livestock with microchip tags that would allow the computerized recording of livestock movements from birth to the slaughterhouse. Proponents of the USDA's National Animal Identification System say that computer records of cattle movements mean that when a cow is discovered with bovine tuberculosis or mad cow disease, its prior contacts can be swiftly traced. Ranchers say the extra cost of the electronic tags places an onerous burden on a teetering industry. Small groups of cattle are often rounded up in distant spots and herded into a truck by a single person who could not simultaneously wield the hand-held scanner needed to record individual animal identities. The ranchers also note that there is no Internet connection on many ranches for filing to a regional database. 'Lobbyists from corporate mega-agribusiness designed this program to destroy traditional small sustainable agriculture,' says Genell Pridgen, an owner of Rainbow Meadow Farms. The notion of centralized data banks, even for animals, has also set off alarms among libertarians who oppose NAIS. One group has issued a bumper sticker that reads, 'Tracking cattle now, tracking you soon.' 'They can't comprehend the vastness of a ranch like this,' says Jay Platt, the third-generation owner of a 22,000 acre New Mexico ranch. 'This plan is expensive, it's intrusive, and there's no need for it.'"
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Ranchers Have Beef With USDA Program To ID Cattle

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  • by jim_v2000 (818799) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @05:58PM (#28535351)
    LOL
  • Sigh. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy&gmail,com> on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @06:02PM (#28535387) Journal

    Nothing ever changes. This is the exact argument that they made in the 1900's when the FDA was first trying to reduce the number of human body parts that made it into canned meat: "Waaaaaa, you're going to put us out of business! Waaaaaaaa, no one could ever collect this much information!"

    I call BS. If I stole a cow from one of those giant farms, the damn rancher'd be able to identify it in a second, but the instant you want to track something for public safety reasons, "there is no way they could ever collect that information."

    • Re:Sigh. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by scubamage (727538) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @06:03PM (#28535395)
      You're an idiot if you think all ranchers have "those giant farms."
      • So if they have a little itty-bitty family farm, what's the problem?

        My (step)grandfather had a mere 120 head of cattle: we could have scanned those in a few minutes every day, just by walking along behind the hay truck, and zapping every cow that walked near.

        I am extremely suspicious of "just trust us" accounting, especially in cases of disease and tainted animal products. I feel no particular need to trust their honesty.

        • Re:Sigh. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by scubamage (727538) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @06:18PM (#28535579)
          Did he work alone? Ever? I remember trying to single handedly round up cattle for transport, even to fairs, back when I was growing up. No way in hell I could get them in a wagon by myself, let alone scan them while trying to keep them loading on. Plus then of course you have to take into account the cost of the scanner, internet connectivity, consumables (tags), it IS a lot of administrative burden. A lot of farmers in our area have themselves, maybe one kid helping them, and that's it.
      • by geekoid (135745)

        You missed the point. The giant farms would be MORE difficult, small ranches this is trivial and not even that expensive.

        • You misread even the summary, with a quote from a small rancher who apparently would disagree strongly with your statement.

          'Lobbyists from corporate mega-agribusiness designed this program to destroy traditional small sustainable agriculture,' says Genell Pridgen, an owner of Rainbow Meadow Farms.
          • by tsm_sf (545316)
            It's moot anyhow. When the water wars start the small ranchers will be the first to go. Here's a handy equation to explain it:

            Los Angeles > Your Dirt Farm
        • Re:Sigh. (Score:4, Informative)

          by tnk1 (899206) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @06:47PM (#28535905)

          Actually, the giant farms would probably not be as difficult. Large farms have more people, many of whom probably do not work as much as the few people per small farm. They have economies of scale on larger farms, which means that if there is another administrative hurdle to cross, they already have a person on staff to deal with it, and it is probably their job. On a small farm, administration is time taken out of the other work time of the operational staff of the farm. Even a small amount of additional administration and regulation can turn into an issue.

          For those of you who understand the concepts, this regulation basically represents a flat percentage of extra effort; in taxes, we call that a regressive tax. You must spend the same amount of time to tag a steer on a small farm as a large farn, but like the poor vs. rich in the tax scenario, the rich can absorb a flat percentage without being really hurt by it.

          Now I am not saying that the tagging idea is impossible, but somehow you will have to account for the extra adminstrative time required out of people who already work from dawn to dusk and beyond every day just staying afloat. Their position is 100% valid, even if you think its "not all that expensive". Work is work, tags cost a unit price, and God help you if your report on so-and-so shipment was messed up, because it's all your fault when the government comes knocking to fine you.

          A lot of people in the US get upset with mega-corporations, but they forget that massive regulation requires an investment of time from the regulated. That means that it becomes yet another reason that mega-corporations take over. They can absorb these costs. Their bottom line may be affected, but it's merely a percentage. On a small farn that same percentage might be a significant portion of whatever small profits that they eke out. Small farms are *not* efficient, anyone who understands economics should know that. They provide some advantages, but many of those advantages (like a free and hard working population who are landowners) are intangibles that no one really factors in.

          I used to drive out to farms when I worked with my grandfather, who sold goods to farmers. Many people here would be shocked by what I saw in terms of the sacrifices that these people have to make to simply do what their families have been doing for centuries. These are people who don't need something else on their backs making their life even harder. Not if we don't want to see them or their children sell out to the agribusiness and move away.

          People think that all of these programs are no-brainers because "of course we want to track every animal to prevent CJ disease", but take a look at who is doing that work before you call it a win. Some of you are effectively calling some of the hardest working people on Earth "lazy" or "greedy". The concept of people sitting in their ergonomic chairs and making those sorts of statements sickens me from the pure ignorance that it represents.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by crmarvin42 (652893)
            I understand what you are trying to say but you are misunderstanding the actual situation. The time and cost/animal to tag will be fairly uniform. Yeah the large operation may be able to buy tags for less/tag but the difference will be relatively minor. Especially since the smaller operations are already paying more for just about all of the input costs per animal.

            Their point is only valid if you truely believe that there is some sort of benefit to society in their running a less efficient operation. L
    • by ShakaUVM (157947)

      Nothing ever changes. This is the exact argument that they made in the 1900's when the FDA was first trying to reduce the number of human body parts that made it into canned meat: "Waaaaaa, you're going to put us out of business! Waaaaaaaa, no one could ever collect this much information!"

      Lol, this is exactly what I was talking about; see my post right below yours. I've been sitting in on lectures on the Progressive Era for the last two weeks, and the fact that the large meatpacking companies supported the

    • Re:Sigh. (Score:5, Informative)

      by j. andrew rogers (774820) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @06:46PM (#28535891)

      I call BS. If I stole a cow from one of those giant farms, the damn rancher'd be able to identify it in a second, but the instant you want to track something for public safety reasons, "there is no way they could ever collect that information."

      I call BS on your BS. If we were talking about corporate feed lots it would be one thing, but a very significant percentage of the US beef herd is raised by independent cattle producers on open range in very sparsely populated country. It can take months to find all of your cattle to tag them in the first place, so it is very easy to "lose" cattle without noticing. In fact, the law in the ranching areas I am familiar with is that you only have rights to your free-range cattle if you can find and tag them within the first year after birth, after which they enter the public domain (first person to tag them owns them). It is not at all uncommon for me to find a rancher's untagged cattle in one of my canyons.

      Beef ranching in the western US does not work the way you think it does. Much of the basic logistics of it have not changed much since the 19th century.

  • Regulation (Score:5, Informative)

    by ShakaUVM (157947) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @06:03PM (#28535399) Homepage Journal

    From the summary: "'Lobbyists from corporate mega-agribusiness designed this program to destroy traditional small sustainable agriculture,' says Genell Pridgen"

    It's true. When The Jungle was published, TR responded with the Pure Food and Drug Act, which regulated and inspected meat packing plants (he also went vegetarian for a little while, which, if you know TR, shows you how much he was affected by Sinclair's book).

    Contrary to what many people might think, the large meat companies supported the act. It 1) Improved public perception of the safety of meat, increasing sales, 2) Opened up American meats to the European market and 3) Added significant costs to the industry, which put their smaller competitors out of business.

    You can learn a lot from history.

    • by jim_v2000 (818799)
      If (relatively inexpensive) safety measures put a company out of business, then they had no business being in business.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      It 1) Improved public perception of the safety of meat, increasing sales,

      Forget perception. It improved the safety, and quality, of meat full stop.

      The reality is that the food industry as a whole needs these regulations. Left to their own devices, food producers will quite happily sell us sawdust and animal faeces to eat, feed dead cows to other cows, and buy, sell and slaughter sick, dying and dead animals that have been hauled across continents. All for a few pennies extra.

      BSE would not have happened if t

      • Re:Regulation (Score:4, Insightful)

        by wurble (1430179) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @07:40PM (#28536543)
        Umm, what does the Flu, a VIRUS, have to do with antibiotics, which are treatment for BACTERIAL infections?
    • by labnet (457441)

      Our company makes RFID equipment specifically for this industry.
      Contrary to your view of 'putting small producers out of business' is not the case.
      Producers who do not have RFID equipment, either have freelance scanners, or the anmimals are scanned at the sale yards.
      The equipment is reltively cheap for small producers (ie the hand held readers) and access to the database industry paid for.
      So it adds a couple of $ overhead. If their margins are that small, then they shouldn't be in the business.

  • Well... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Estanislao Martínez (203477) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @06:06PM (#28535439) Homepage

    I think the ranchers oppose having their animals chipped because then it becomes too easy for the government to abuse its power and round their cattle up like cattle.

  • Hmmm. (Score:3, Informative)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy&gmail,com> on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @06:07PM (#28535443) Journal

    The cost of the rfids would be practically nothing. They have to give them their shots anyway (mmmmm, tasty growth hormone), so that's just one more.

    The movement issue is more real, because the range on the readers is tiny, but we've all seen lab experiments where hackers read an rfid enabled card from 200 feet away with a cantenna, so I'm not inclined to believe this to be an unsolvable problem.

    And the internet thing is a joke. The amount of actual data collected would be pretty small (in the grand scheme). Uploading it every week or so wouldn't be a huge burden.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745)

      Yep, a reader mounted to where the cattle passes by as gthey load it onto the truck and an access database could easily do this from anyone with less then 200 head.

      The data could be uploaded with a dial up connection in minutes. Is that too much? fine next time you drive to town use the connection at the library, or get together with all the ranchers and donate a 1 Mbit line to city hall, with he provision they get a terminal to themselves so there isn't a line to upload the data. Still too much? fine, use

    • Re:Hmmm. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Buelldozer (713671) <cliff.gindulis@net> on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @06:26PM (#28535681)

      What if "updating every week or so" meant driving 40 miles into town, one way, to use someone elses Internet connection? Now what if it's a verified blizzard outside with temperatures of 0F, 50MPH winds, and 10" of snow on the ground? What if your wife and kids are sick and there's no one else to get the chores done or help them out while you drive your happy butt 40 miles through a blizzard to send the government some bullshit data that the cattle ranchers in China don't?

      My point is this, don't automatically assume an Internet connection is convenient or even available.

      You likely live in an urban area and have no concept of how much free space there are in some of these cattle herding states. Like most people you're unable to step outside your own life experience and imagine the difficulties that someone else would have.

      My next question is are we going to demand this for all IMPORTERS of beef or is this a burden that only good 'ol U.S. Ranchers are going to have to bear?

      • by hedwards (940851)
        You do realize that this is terribly inaccurate, right? The movements that this sort of thing is tracking aren't within a lot, trust me if one corner of the lot is contaminated all the cattle in the lot are likely to be put down. This is about tracking cows as they go from lot to lot and in that context what you're arguing makes absolutely no sense.

        A huge amount of damage was done to the US beef industry when a small number of cows were fed in Canada. It turned out that those particular cows were fed con
      • by rubycodez (864176)

        bullshit sob story. I have plenty of relatives with livestock. they all without exception have working POTS lines. even at 14.4K the very minute amount of data to be uploaded would go in less than a minute. internet for text is available everywhere, even on the lazy-R ranch.

    • by zoobaby (583075)

      Technology isn't an issue on this. Depending on what RFID technology is used, read range wouldn't be an issue. Since cattle life is relatively short, active tags can be used which also address some of the concerns of a single person taking the readings. Also readers can be attached to a trailer, punch a button and read all tags within range (which can be large or small).

      Uploading data, you are right, it is very small. A few hundred bits per cow is all that would be needed. Even a old 300 baud modem co

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by networkBoy (774728)

        Uploading data, you are right, it is very small. A few hundred bits per cow is all that would be needed. Even a old 300 baud modem could upload all the data relatively quickly.

        Except that this is a government program, so rather than a simple data format, tailored to the job, it will be WTF worthy XML from hell that has a 200:1 ratio of formatting overhead and spurious data that could be sent once and stored at the server, but will be sent every time. Further, rather than lumping the data like so:

        <herd="some rancher">
        <head="cow number 1"/>
        <head="cow number 2"/>
        <head="cow number n"/>
        </herd>

        it will be along the lines of:

        <herd="some rancher">
        <extra_crap_data=$putOneMegOfCrapHere/>
        <head="cow number 1"/>
        </herd>
        <herd="some rancher">
        <extra_crap_data=$putOneMegOfCrapHere/>
        <head="cow number 2"/>
        </herd>
        <herd="some rancher">
        <extra_crap_data=$putOneMegOfCrapHere/>
        <head="cow number n"/>
        </herd>

        -nB

  • Tracking (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ohio Calvinist (895750) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @06:07PM (#28535461)
    The difference is that if a person contracts a disease that is a public health risk, the person is generally able to tell physicians who he/she might have had contact with so that person can get treatment, possibily saving their life and slowing the disease spread. Cows can't tell investigators where they have been and who should be notified.

    Regarding the cost, I can't imagine that this would be more expensive that the cost of destroying entire herds of cattle when one cow comes down with a confirmed or probable case of these diseases. Being able to isolate the infected could decrease the numbers needed to be destoyed saving money. The difference is that farms can claim the loss of the animal in insurance which is a sunk cost, versus a preventative cost. This would save money upstream as well in the form of smaller recalls to distributors, which seem to happen more and more frequently in the US.

    Internet access isn't a good excuse as a low-bandwidth cellular scanner would be enough to report via SOAP web-service to whatever database; not to mention that every industry has costs-of-doing-business and this will/could be one of those things.

    I haven't read enough to comment on the implementation of this plan but on the surface, I can't see why this wouldn't be a good idea from a public health perspective.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Darkness404 (1287218)

      Regarding the cost, I can't imagine that this would be more expensive that the cost of destroying entire herds of cattle when one cow comes down with a confirmed or probable case of these diseases.

      Its a risk many would prefer to take though. There is only a tiny risk that this might happen. On the other hand, for every cow you have you would need a microchip which would add a ton of costs. For a mega-farm this makes sense, for the average small rancher with 50 or so head of cattle, this only will send them into bankruptcy.

      • by Thiez (1281866)

        > On the other hand, for every cow you have you would need a microchip which would add a ton of costs.

        Yes, because obviously a few cents for an RFID tag equals 'a ton of costs'. We're not talking about borg implants here.

    • Well, would you rather risk a one-in-a-million shot of losing one million dollars, or be forced to spend $100,000 to (maybe) avoid it?

      What if either amount would put you out of business?

      Furthermore, its not just the chip. The chip, the cost to implant the chip, the time to read the chip however often is required, the time and cost to store/upload the data, the internet connection, the computer, etc.

    • by rjhubs (929158)
      Isn't this skirting the issue though? The solution to Mad Cow disease should be having regulations against having spinal meat being processed and sold to consumers. Granted being able to eradicate sick cows is a bonus, taking simple measures in how we process are meat solves the most serious problem.
    • Re:Tracking (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Bunny Guy (1345017) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @06:27PM (#28535691)

      O.K - having just returned from my vacation in Oregon "cow country" (prospecting for sunstones), I can clue you in on what's wrong with your world view.

      Having looked at the program - the information they are trying to gain is - where has the cow been, and what other livestock has it associated with. This means that you have to read the chip and report, every time an animal is moved. It may happen more frequently, but moves would happen at least from high to low pastures and back - because of the weather.

      So you have lots of reads, sometimes on small numbers of cattle. For the collected information to be useful it's got to be timely. Most people don't appreciate the scale of even eastern Oregon (much less New Mexico - I've lived in both). This leads up to the next problem -

      THERE IS NO CELLULAR ACCESS - there isn't cell access for 100 miles in any direction from where I was. Heck, even the 162.XX weather radio was inaudable (I'm a ham, too) So much for your "low cost cellular scanner". Sat Radio would work - know what an irridium set with data costs? Not cheap, and every hand moving cattle has to have one.

      Basically, it's clear that this rule was proposed by people who don't have a clear picture of the area they are asking this to be applied to - much less of the processes of the people who would actually do it.

    • I could take you to 25 different places on ranches I know of right now where your low-bandwidth cellular scanner would be as useful as lipstick on a pig.

      You obviously don't spend much time outside in "Big Sky" states or you'd know better than to propose cellular ANYTHING as a communications solution. Cell phones flat don't work in much of the back country and the back country is where you tend to find a lot of cattle.

    • Re:Tracking (Score:5, Informative)

      by j. andrew rogers (774820) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @06:32PM (#28535747)

      Internet access isn't a good excuse as a low-bandwidth cellular scanner would be enough to report via SOAP web-service to whatever database; not to mention that every industry has costs-of-doing-business and this will/could be one of those things.

      You assume far too much, out in the western US ranch country there is usually no communication services of any kind. I have a small (a few square kilometers) ranch in Nevada that is 20 miles from the next ranch (never mind a road), typical for western ranching operations. I get cellular reception -- one bar -- if I climb to the peak of the adjacent mountain, that several thousand extra feet gives me line-of-sight to an area near an Interstate highway 30-40 miles away.

      There seems to be a presumption (1) that western ranches are the size of hobby farms, (2) that they are located anywhere near infrastructure, and (3) that free-range cattle is a tidy local pasture-and-barn affair instead of a horseback operation in remote canyons. In many parts of the western ranching areas, you don't even locate all of your cattle for the better part of a year.

  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @06:11PM (#28535519) Homepage

    'Tracking cattle now, tracking you soon.'

    Ha! As if. Look, we grant cattle no rights, so it's not infringing their rights to have them be tracked. So it's a far step from there to tracking humans. It's like saying "Squashing spiders with slippers today, squashing people with slippers soon'. It's nonsensical. Besides, the reason cows have no rights is because they aren't capable of even thinking about the concept of rights much less engaging in protests etc to gain them. So not only are they different morally, they're different practically because it's not like the government could just come and start tracking us all without us noticing and burning down the Capitol.

    Hmm? What do you mean "what's that hanging from my ear?" Some piece of plastic with a number on it? Well so there is! Geeze, I don't remember getting my ear pierced, but I did get pretty drunk last Friday... I remember somebody in a suit pointing at me and then I felt like I wanted to lie down... But I must have gone into the tattoo and piercing parlor and gotten pierced. With a tacky and crappy earring too, that doesn't seem to want to come off... I hope I didn't get tattooed too... Oh geeze, what the hell?! "19273g"? What the hell kind of tattoo is that? Alright that's it, no more Friday night benders for me.

    Now what was I saying? Oh yeah. Some people are so paranoid!

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Typical slippery slope fallacy.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by scorp1us (235526)

      The issues of tracking cattle are going to be similar to tracking humans. They will learn from this project, so that the one that gets deployed on us will be much less error prone. In fact, people are probably easier to model (very habitual as everyone has a schedule for themselves) whereas a herd has a less rigid schedule.

      I wouldn't even call this a slippery slope. This is a stepping stone. It would only be a slippery slope if the lessons learned did not have any applicability to humans. But they do.

    • by ArsonSmith (13997)

      ""19273g"? What the hell kind of tattoo is that? "

      A noob tattoo

      -00345a

    • First they came for the cattle, and I said nothing, for I was not cattle.
      Then they came for the ducks, and I said nothing, for I eat not ducks.
      Then they came for the spinach and I said nothing, as long as I get some.

      Seriously, that last sentence of your post is somewhat ironic considering your sig. It's also kind of pathetic that we even need to consider this in any sort of paranoia context, instead of considering the cost/benefit side of things, since that's what it really comes down to. I have no id
      • by Chris Burke (6130)

        Seriously, that last sentence of your post is somewhat ironic considering your sig.

        Would that still be ironic if the sentence was meant to be taken ironically?

        BTW, when they come for the ducks, some shit's going to go down. Do what you want to cattle, but don't mess with my duck bros.

    • There are so many ways you are being tracked already, the 'Tracking cattle now, tracking you soon" fear isn't paranoia, it's whistling in the dark. This issue has nothing whatsoever to do with privacy issues. It is a purely industrial matter. Both agribusiness and small farmers are whining about something that will increase their costs. That's all. Will it put anyone out of business? No, unless they sell less than a few tens of cows a year, in which case they might be better off leaving the business on that
      • by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @06:56PM (#28536049) Homepage

        There are so many ways you are being tracked already, the 'Tracking cattle now, tracking you soon" fear isn't paranoia, it's whistling in the dark.

        Well there's only one thing that I know how to do well, and I've often been told that you can only do what you know how to do well -- and that's be you! Be what you're like. Be like yourself. And so I'm having a wonderful time but I'd rather be whistling in the dark.

  • by w3woody (44457) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @06:18PM (#28535581) Homepage
    "Tracking cattle now, tracking you soon." Too late; I already have a cell phone. I'm already being tracked.
  • by PPH (736903)
    Don't chip your cows. But when the EU, Japan or China bans US beef, don't expect me to back up your complaining. I'm siding with them. And if my supermarket carries beef or food with beef by-products warranted as having been tracked vs untracked varieties, guess which brand I'm buying?
  • by Spacepup (695354) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @06:23PM (#28535639)

    In this case the farmers are right. The cattle are branded with a unique brand so the rancher knows who it belongs to. In addition, cattle are given an eartag so that the slaughter houses can tell where they came from. Cattle comes from two sources...large industrial like feedlots where the cattle are crowded into a small area and fed grain ...or on ranches where they go free range and graze on grasses. Since a large operation would have maybe 1000 head of cattle, it can be presumed that from the ear tags, if a slaughtered cow is found to have some disease at the slaughter house, it can be narrowed down to one ranch or feed lot.

    Now, because of the close confines of the feedlot, it can easily be presumed that the sick cow came into close proximity with all the other cattle there. And so the new technology is just simply not needed, it's a wasteful expense.

    For the rancher, equiping each of his hands with a scanner gets expensive. The data is instantly intrusive, as in "why didn't you pasture your cows this way" and in some instances could easily be used by overzealous groups (ie peta) to grief ranchers about their animal husbandry practices.

    All in all, it's a lot of expense, a lot of trouble, and a lot of intrusion, for very little is actual gain. In the efforts at finding disease, relying on this system alone to reduce the number of animals tested could mean that positives slip by because they weren't tested as they didn't show up in the contact list for the sick cow.

  • I guess now we'll know.

  • This program will spare us from having to kill off all these thousands of cattle just because 1 or 2 was diagnosed with some rare disease.
  • I swear, people (in government especially) think that because we have these computers we have to fill them up with data. People end up unnecessarily being slaves to the damn computer.

  • Actual costs? (Score:3, Informative)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @06:32PM (#28535749)

    They're hemming and hawing about the costs? It's about $6 per tag today. Economy of scale could drive that a lot lower. And the tags can be removed and recycled into a new animal (betcha didn't know that!) -- after being properly sterilized, of course. They last about a 100+ years. The reader itself, as a handheld model runs anywhere from $150 to $1000 depending on range and other options. It's not necessary for it to connect to the internet or anything like that -- and the amount of data we're talking about could be handled via a 9600 baud modem! It's just a serial number for crissakes. Yes, farmers have teh intarwebs too. -_-

    Each beef cow is worth about $800. Assuming 10% of the chips need to be replaced per... that's 60 cents. For something worth $800. The overhead here really is negligible, especially for a CAFO. That's an industrial feed lot, for those of you who don't know -- they're fed corn and kept in stalls, not grass-fed and left in fields. And did I mention it's all tax-deductible? Most everything on a farm is. Well, except you, that is. hehe.

    So, in short... It's bull. Literally and figuratively. //Disclaimers: I have five dots in Lore:Rural. I am also a computer geek.

  • by cdrguru (88047) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @06:42PM (#28535855) Homepage

    I talked recently to a small farmer with a few cows. They are already required to document entry and exit of cattle into and out of each county. Since their farm has multiple fields which are in two separate counties, they are required to submit this documentation each time they move an animal between the two fields. Which is of course stupid, but the regulations were designed without any consideration for a split-county operation like this.

    This person has maybe 20 head, total. With the existing regulations it is almost too much to bother with. Adding more tracking, with more hardware requirements and obviously training for all hands involved it is going to be impractical for them to continue.

    Yes, there were some feed problems for cows. Most of these problems have been identified and dealt with. I suspect there are still a few, but nothing that is going to create anything like the mad cow panic. Piling more and more regulation, especially regulation that is not focused on real problems buy imaginary ones, will simply mean that all cattle are raised by factory farms.

  • Pfft (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @06:46PM (#28535897)

    (Speaking as someone who works within one of the largest meatworks company in Australia, so each to their own)

    Over here in Australia, we have had a National Livestock Identification Scheme (NLIS) RFID ear tags on cows for about the last 3 yrs.

    The tags themselves work out to about $3.50AU ea. The growers were a bit unhappy at the start but it was compulsory so they got over it. Im sure prices were jacked up accordingly to cover the cost.

    All the info is stored in a goverment owned db and at time of slaughter or sale can checked to confirm that the cow was free from disease.

    The most expensive part is probably the RFID wands as there is only one company in Australia that specializes in RFID wands for the cattle industry.

    Anyway, in the end. The small growers are still alive and doing well. Nothings really changed, except now there is a tracking system for cows to ensure quality meat.

    • Re:Pfft (Score:4, Interesting)

      by twostix (1277166) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @11:43PM (#28538343)

      (Speaking as someone who comes from a long line of Australian farmers, has two dozen blood relatives on farms and knows pepole in every aspect of food production...you don't know much).

      My uncle who had 500 head of free roaming grass fed Herefords on 2000 acres (Beef, Grain and Sheep) out in the Riverina sold all of his cattle rather than take on the extra burden of paperwork, large amount of labour and cost associated with complying with the NLIS.

      He sold them to a feedlot that's part owned by the Mitsubishi Corporation.

      He was not alone in his district.

      So
      A) You're wrong they didn't *get over it* it's hurting people who aren't in a position to just sell a huge part of their operation at a loss.
      B) Feedlots loved the regulation as it's far easier to tag 500 head crammed into a few large sheds than 500 head wandering around 2000 acres. They know that and enjoy the benefit of not being burdened by that.
      C) Given that you work in one of the largest meatoworks in Australia WTF would you know about small farmers?

      Enjoy your disease ridden, growth hormone, antibiotic flooded feedlot "meat product".

  • by xmiker (1491397) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @06:48PM (#28535911)
    If Australian cattle farmers, including the operators of the 6,000,000 acre Anna Creek Station (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_Creek_station) in South Australia can implement tagging of all of their cattle, why can't you Americans just do it as well, instead of whining? I take it the US won't be complaining when Japan, Korea and the European Union don't want to buy their untraceable beef. (http://www.mla.com.au/TopicHierarchy/IndustryPrograms/NationalLivestockIdentificationSystem/default.htm)
  • by MBCook (132727)

    That program sounds fantastic to me. And this opinion is not influenced at all [legalcasedocs.com] by the beef industry.

    I might say that maybe we should just start by making it illegal to feed animals (especially old/diseased animals) to herbivore livestock. Or maybe make antibiotic feed illegal. Maybe just require labeling of if you use antibiotics or GE meat.

    But I wouldn't say any of that. I love the Texas beef industry.

    *please don't sue me*

  • What scares me about this idea is in the article itself. 'Tracking cattle now, tracking you soon.' seems so much more likely than I thought at first.

    FTA: "The FDA wants to track cow movements in case a breakout of bovine tuberculosis."

    Why does this sound very similar to an arguement in 20 years saying...

    "The US Government wants to track human movements in case a breakout of ."

    I could totally see the Government setting up 'checkpoints' at airports, highways, etc that you walk/drive by and it just watches wh

    • Oh wake the fuck up.

      'Tracking $STUPID_EXAMPLE now, tracking you soon.'

      Try substituting $STUPID_EXAMPLE with any other RFIDed product or item currently on the market at WalMart, at the local mall, at the airport, etc. Pretty stupid-sounding, eh? This has absolutely nothing to do with privacy rights, Big Brother, armageddon, etc. It is a cost benefit issue only!
  • by MrKaos (858439) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @06:58PM (#28536065) Journal
    If the bovine has done nothing wrong, surely it has nothing to fear from being tracked. After what's the worst that can happen to it?
  • When ya get a few thousand cows stomping around in their shit all day long eating things they were never meant to eat and getting injected with cocktails of chemicals.. tracking them really doesn't seem like the problem to me..
  • by robbak (775424) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @07:15PM (#28536259) Homepage

    I got a good laugh at "They don't understand the vastness of" the postage stamps you guys call "cattle ranches" over there.
    Australia introduced NLIS a few years ago now, and it is going well. And we have cattle stations larger than Texas.

  • by porky_pig_jr (129948) on Tuesday June 30, 2009 @08:35PM (#28537013)

    cause every cow needs its own IP address. And cows don't like NAT. No bull.

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