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Beef Industry Gears Up For Traceability

In mid-July, Canada’s agriculture ministers started the clock running to put a national mandatory traceability system in place by 2011.

At the same time Ottawa announced a $20 million Livestock Auction Traceability Initiative to help auction markets, assembly yards, community pastures and exhibitions upgrade their facilities and hire expertise to set up their facilities to trace cattle electronically. Money for equipment is available through other programs; some provinces already have Growing Forward funds in place for this purpose.

The announcement came as no surprise to Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA) chairman Steve Primrose. He’s been part of an industry group that has spent the best part of the last year putting a plan in place in anticipation of this July announcement.

An Industry-Government Advisory Committee (IGAC) on traceability was established back in 2006, and the IGAC, the CCIA, Livestock Markets Association of Canada (LMAC), Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and national dairy association along with representatives from the federal, Alberta and Ontario governments later formed the cattle implementation working group, which has made significant progress in putting a draft plan together in the past year.

The plan revolves around the CCIA’s national database — the Canadian Livestock Tracking System (CLTS) — for individual animal identification. “I think (full traceability) could be the light at the end of the tunnel because we will be positioned better than the U.S.,” says Primrose. The U.S. says it has traceability, but can’t prove it. We can.”

Primrose, who has represented the Canadian Cattle Dealers Association on the CCIA board for the past 10 years, is as sensitive as anyone to the impact government regulations can have the producers’ bottom line. He operates a 4,000-head feedlot near Lethbridge as well as Primrose Livestock, which ships live fat cattle into the U.S. He’s also a partner in Primrose Livestock Sask., a feedlot and assembly yard near Swift Current, and runs various grass and farm operations around Saskatchewan, including a cow-calf herd at Eston.

The CCIA may operate the tracking system but it doesn’t regulate traceability. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) does that, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) enforces the federal regulations. The implementation committee can only make recommendations to the IGAC which in turn advises the federal-provincial traceability team that directs the national strategy.

Animal ID, premise ID and traceability are the three cogs in the national plan. The implementation committee will start testing equipment and the readiness of markets to meet the government’s traceability requirements at select marketing centres around the country in September.

The plan

Animal Identification is already pretty much in place through the national tracking system. But there are still some outstanding issues that still have to be decided on before the industry takes on the demands of full traceability. Record keeping at the producer level, the timeframe for replacing and reporting lost tags at auction markets and feedlots, tag retirement, and age verification are the main topics still under discussion.

Mandatory age verification is not a component of the national traceability system, but it is the law in Alberta and Quebec and CCIA has expanded its national database to record birth dates for Alberta producers and those from other provinces who want to age verify calves and mature cattle. Quebec has its own system operated by Agri-Tracabilite Quebec, Inc.

Premise ID

AAFC has designated premise identification for traceability a provincial responsibility. CCIA is working with provinces to ensure every producer has a validated national premise identification number in the traceability database by September 2009.

The draft plan calls for negotiations between the provinces and CCIA on the process to control access to this data to conclude by March 31, 2010 and national premise ID numbers assigned to community pastures, auction markets and buying stations by September of 2010. National premise ID should be fully operational by the end of 2010.

“We’ve struggled with what premise identification means,” Primrose admits. “Early in the game, the CFIA and other government agencies had suggested they wanted to see animal movement tracked from quarter to quarter. Common sense tells us that’s unworkable and we will get it right in the end.”

The draft plan defines a premise as “the home quarter of an agricultural business and its contiguous land boundaries.” The working group wants to include other land under the home quarter that is owned or held on long-term lease by a producer.

The proposed definition for a “linked premise” is a location where livestock are grazed regularly by a single producer/industry participant but are not contiguous to the home quarter or its contiguous lands. Industry would like to see this changed to all locations where livestock are located other than the home quarter. The lessee will be responsible to report these locations. With this revision the only time movement would have to be reported would be when animals leave the listed quarters, such as when they are turned into a neighbour’s field to graze.

Full movement reporting

This is still a hot topic for industry representatives on the implementa-

tion committee. No one seems certain what full movement really means, or what is possible.

The auction market project starting next month should start to provide some answers about what works, and what doesn’t.

The second phase for full movement reporting begins in January 2010, when feedlots that handle more than 1,000 head per year, will be required to report the CCIA tag numbers of animals entering their facilities.

Veterinary clinics, artificial insemination companies, renderers, packers, exporters and importers will also be required to track cattle at some point during this second phase. Auction markets, community pastures and assembly yards have been given an extra year to find the technology that will allow them to track cattle at the “speed of commerce.”

“This is not a copout. It’s reality,” says Primrose. “If we agree to do something that could put us out of business, we are not going to get support. There is no use spending a lot of time and money to put a grandiose plan in place only to find out that it won’t work.”

The draft plans calls for the regulatory framework to be established in phase three and auction markets, assembly yards and community pastures brought into the system in the fourth phase.

The timeline in this proposed plan calls for the CCIA’s auction research project to wrap up by the end of 2010, but Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has now asked for an

TESTING THE PLAN

Technology and innovation will be the focus of a couple of research projects this fall as the industry seeks ways to take the bumps out of mandatory traceability.

A national project run by the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA) will test various brands of equipment and software in six to eight markets around the country while an Alberta government project will test one tracking system in up to six locations to evaluate the needs of markets and the costs of getting them ready before the system is put into place in 2011.

A key objective of the national study is to assess the efficiency of current equipment to track cattle at the “speed of commerce.” Another is to come up with an estimate of the cost to equip markets for mandatory reporting.

CCIA staff will be on site to collect and monitor data at each market.

The first phase, reading CCIA tags as animals are unloaded into markets, gets underway in September and should be completed by January. Those results will determine what further testing is required this spring and, if necessary, right up to October 2010.

The final report to IGAC is expected by the end of 2010. It will detail how the equipment performed, the effect on the business and an estimate on the cost to provide traceability services at marketing centres throughout Canada.

That would leave market operators about a year to install whatever equipment the research shows will be necessary to do the job by the government’s starting date.

The final report will also give guidance to equipment suppliers so they can fast track production of the required technology, says Rick Wright, a CCIA representative on the government/industry steering committee. There are about 250 markets and assembly yards across Canada.

“Until we know the CFIA’s minimum standards, we won’t be able to figure out the cost,” Wright says. “We have to remember that 95 per cent of this was initially driven by the CFIA and five to 10 per cent was from the marketplace looking for value adding opportunities. It’s always been our position that the government should pay for 90 per cent of the cost to install the equipment.”

Alberta’s pilot project will explore the value-added benefits of tracking movement in and out of auction markets, such as inventory management, faster sorting and the ability to display more information about the cattle in the sale ring.

“There will be a lot of data captured for the purpose of the pilot,” Valerie Sowiak, one of the project managers adds. “Then we will go back to the auction markets, look at issues from the project to determine how to approach them, and seek solutions to move forward.”

The company chosen to supply the equipment for this project will be required to report on a number of scenarios as well as to provide a cost-benefit analysis to determine if it would be in the best interests of the auction markets to purchase their own equipment or purchase this service from a private vendor. There is no expectation that the vendor selected for the project will be given exclusive rights to supply all the markets across the province.

Information will be shared between the two projects, however Sowiak says the decision about what’s most beneficial for Alberta auction markets will be based on the findings of Alberta’s project with its focus on value, more so than those from the national project.

interim report by the end of February. Money from the new Livestock Auction Traceability Initiative will start to flow this month so businesses can start applying for funds as soon as they are ready to move forward with traceability. The industry was initially working toward an implementation date of January 1, 2012 but that will probably be pushed back into late 2011 to comply with the ministers’ deadline. The final dates are still being negotiated.

“So, it’s assuming that technology has caught up with cattlemens’ vision of traceability,” Primrose adds. “I’m confident that it will and, with the auction market study, we will get it right.”

TESTING THE PLAN

Technology and innovation will be the focus of a couple of research projects this fall as the industry seeks ways to take the bumps out of mandatory traceability.

A national project run by the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA) will test various brands of equipment and software in six to eight markets around the country while an Alberta government project will test one tracking system in up to six locations to evaluate the needs of markets and the costs of getting them ready before the system is put into place in 2011.

A key objective of the national study is to assess the efficiency of current equipment to track cattle at the “speed of commerce.” Another is to come up with an estimate of the cost to equip markets for mandatory reporting.

CCIA staff will be on site to collect and monitor data at each market.

The first phase, reading CCIA tags as animals are unloaded into markets, gets underway in September and should be completed by January. Those results will determine what further testing is required this spring and, if necessary, right up to October 2010.

The final report to IGAC is expected by the end of 2010. It will detail how the equipment performed, the effect on the business and an estimate on the cost to provide traceability services at marketing centres throughout Canada.

That would leave market operators about a year to install whatever equipment the research shows will be necessary to do the job by the government’s starting date.

The final report will also give guidance to equipment suppliers so they can fast track production of the required technology, says Rick Wright, a CCIA representative on the government/industry steering committee. There are about 250 markets and assembly yards across Canada.

“Until we know the CFIA’s minimum standards, we won’t be able to figure out the cost,” Wright says. “We have to remember that 95 per cent of this was initially driven by the CFIA and five to 10 per cent was from the marketplace looking for value adding opportunities. It’s always been our position that the government should pay for 90 per cent of the cost to install the equipment.”

Alberta’s pilot project will explore the value-added benefits of tracking movement in and out of auction markets, such as inventory management, faster sorting and the ability to display more information about the cattle in the sale ring.

“There will be a lot of data captured for the purpose of the pilot,” Valerie Sowiak, one of the project managers adds. “Then we will go back to the auction markets, look at issues from the project to determine how to approach them, and seek solutions to move forward.”

The company chosen to supply the equipment for this project will be required to report on a number of scenarios as well as to provide a cost-benefit analysis to determine if it would be in the best interests of the auction markets to purchase their own equipment or purchase this service from a private vendor. There is no expectation that the vendor selected for the project will be given exclusive rights to supply all the markets across the province.

Information will be shared between the two projects, however Sowiak says the decision about what’s most beneficial for Alberta auction markets will be based on the findings of Alberta’s project with its focus on value, more so than those from the national project.

interim report by the end of February. Money from the new Livestock Auction Traceability Initiative will start to flow this month so businesses can start applying for funds as soon as they are ready to move forward with traceability. The industry was initially working toward an implementation date of January 1, 2012 but that will probably be pushed back into late 2011 to comply with the ministers’ deadline. The final dates are still being negotiated.

“So, it’s assuming that technology has caught up with cattlemens’ vision of traceability,” Primrose adds. “I’m confident that it will and, with the auction market study, we will get it right.”

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