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The Brave New World – for Jan. 19, 2009

Mandatory cattle

marketing begins in Alberta

2009

2009 marks the beginning of mandatory marketing requirements for cattle production in Canada. This new wave appeared a few years ago in Quebec but was ushered into Alberta on January 1 with the passing of a new Animal Health Act.

The Alberta government and the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency are actively lobbying cattle producers and politicians in other provinces to join them in this crusade to provide a 100 per cent premise-ID’d and age-verified calf crop. No matter what the politicians do, the commercial pressure on herd owners looking to Alberta as a market for their calves will have little choice but to take up the cause.

If this is the new reality you might we might as well have a closer look at what it entails.

Quebec is still the only province where traceability is a fact. It is a requirement of membership in the province’s stabilization scheme so it is mandatory.

Quebec producers have to identify calves with two ID tags supplied by the provincial Agri-Traabilité Québec inc (ATQ) within seven days of birth if they are born at the farm, or within five months if they are born on pasture. They have 45 days to notify ATQ of the tag number along with their ATQ number, date of birth, sex and category of animal.

Calves arriving at the farm from within Quebec must be reported within 45 days by listing their tag number, the producer’s ID number and the site address of the operation.

Calves coming in from out of province require new ATQ tags when they arrive. The producer can order new bar coded or electronic tags with the same numbers as the CCIA tags and put them in when they arrive. He has 45 days to activate these tags by recording the new tags on forms and filing them with ATQ. The same process applies for calves arriving from outside Canada, although the reporting time is reduced to 30 days.

ATQ must be notified within 45 days if an animal is moved to a secondary site, such as a pasture, that is more than 10 kilometres from the home farm, noting the producer ID and tag number of the animal, the date they left and the site number of the new location. They also have 45 days to report when an animal is shipped out of province. The reporting time is cut to 30 days when the cattle are shipped to a community pasture or to another country.

Lost tags, or course, must be replaced immediately or when new tags arrive if the producer has ordered tags with the same ID number.

ATQ manages the database, the tags and the tracking of the cattle.

By comparison Alberta’s new traceability system is in its infancy. The new Animal Health Act came into force on Jan. 1, 2009 with regulations requiring producers to age verify all their calves with the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA) and register a premise ID on their home property.

It should be said that as in Quebec, a premise ID is required by anyone who raises almost any type of fish, fowl or mammal for commercial reasons. So its not just cattle that have been singled out.

Only cattle producers are required to age verify their calves, however. Under the regulation calves recorded by their actual birth date must be verified within 90 days of birth while producers who batch verify their calves from the first to last date of calving, have eight months to do the paper work from the time the first calf is on the ground.

Auction markets, vet clinics, fairs and feedlots, in fact anyone that operates a “commingling” site where livestock will

be gathered must take out their own premise ID.

The tracking system for following cattle around Alberta (and presumably in and out of the province) is still being built. Nationally, premise IDs will be matched up to CCIA tag numbers to track cattle within the CCIA database. The Alberta Livestock Information System (ALIS) will supply most of this new data relying on reports filed by feedlots and provincial brand inspectors. Other provinces will need their own systems in place to track cattle within their own jurisdictions.

All of this will be constructed over the next year aiming toward June 2010 when tracking cattle will be mandatory in Alberta.

There is no reason to suspect that that deadline won’t be met. So far, the Alberta plan has been ticking along like a well-oiled clock. Back last summer when they made age verification mandatory they predicted having 75 per cent of the calf crop verified by March ’09. As of Dec. 31, 2008, the deadline for complying to claim a second payment from the government recovery program, 70.21 per cent of the 2008 Alberta calf crop had been verified by 13,934 producers.

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