Cattle Tracibility is once again a topic floating the cattle web, How do you keep records?

In recent weeks I've been visiting with cattle growers to see what topics are floating around the coffee shop. 

"If documenting your cattle got you more money, why would you not do it?"

The reviews are mixed. They are anywhere from keep the government off my farm, size of their herd,  to even the age of the cattleman. The one thing we all agreed upon, was that getting the top dollar is everyone's goal.  
Over the past few years, cattle associations have been trying to come up with a uniform way to trace cattle from birth to the table. Herd management is at the top of the list. While talking with cattle growers, each had their own way to keep records on their cattle. The tried and true method -that most people discussed as the most effective- was that of the good ol' notebook, pencil and paper. The use of a computer programs and online filing was mentioned a few times for record keeping. A couple of the cattlemen said, "They don't keep any records or have a vaccination program." Just like a box of apples, it only takes one cow to not be vaccinated and undocumented to ruin the market for the rest of us. Cases such as this are why it is important to know where the cattle come from as they travel from birth to the plate. Today we live in a high tech world where consumers have gotten more interested in where the products they buy come from and are they safe.
Photo: 7SC Ranch Calves with AGEX Tags

Do your cattle have ID ear tags? How much do you pay for the ID ear tags you buy for you cattle? Cattle ear tags average $1- $3 each, and ranging from only numbers to a RFID numbered ear tag. What information does you current ear tag offer when you sell that animal? Other than a blank stare, a couple of cattleman said that you can scan the RFID tag. What if you could scan you ear tag with a RFID reader and your smart phone? What if you could scan an ear tag and pull up all the history of that animal? Then I was asked, "You're saying that there is an ear tag you can scan with your phone, and pull up that calves story? Yep! I took out my phone, pulled up the app, and showed them the history on my cattle. I then explained that the new buyer gets all this information after purchase. How much does the app cost? That's a lot of information with a picture of the calf. I bet that program is expensive? The smartphone app is free, the software is free, but there is a always catch." The catch is that you have to buy the RFID smart phone scannable ear tags. Well guess what? Those tags are only $2 each, and that's worth it to have access to free herd management software. Have you priced those herd management programs lately? They average $10 - $50 a month. 

There has been another round of discussions on tracking cattle, and keeping track of the herd for disease control. These discussions have been "making the rounds" on the internet and most of your farm and ranch publications. I have had a couple "off the record" conversations, with those behind the new push, and it seems that the program I currently use is just fine. 
Here is a example of how it should work with cattlemen participation. Rancher Joe sells Rancher Sally 10 calves. Now Rancher Sally signs up for the free software. Once she inputs the tag numbers, boom there is all the history that Rancher Joe had on the calves. Birth place/date, weight, vaccination records, pictures, etc. is all available, and now under Rancher Sally's account. As this continues and the calves/cattle change hands once they reach the packer, they too can scan the tag and see all the history on the animal.  That is the traceablity that everyone is looking for. The program and tags  we use are from AGEX using the AGEX HERD Management software. We use if for herd records but it doubles for traceability too. Everyone does things their own way, but here is how we use the program: When working cattle, we scan the tags as we put them in the animals ears, all while still taking notes on paper. At the end of the day, we sit down (in the comfort of our house) and input the information that correlates with the tag numbers. We do still keep the paper notebook for a backup. ~Pepper Stewart