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Nearly a half of Canada’s 2008 total beef and dairy calf crop had been age verified in the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency’s (CCIA) traceability database by Dec 7. That is on a par with 2007.

Gauging from the phones ringing off the hook at the CCIA’s service desk in Calgary, communications co-ordinator Brooke Hunter expected that number to rise significantly by year-end. Realistically, we won’t know the final tally until later in 2009 when all the calves have been marketed because that’s when most producers age verify. February, March and April are the big months for age verification.

The chart shows the number of 2008 calves age verified by Dec. 7 in the Canadian Livestock Traceability System (CLTS) compared to the number of beef and dairy calves on farms as of July 1, 2008. The percentages are highest in provinces that provide incentives to age verify — B. C., Alber ta and Ontario.

The CCIA has not yet begun to track the statistics on premise identification. By virtue of its new livestock identification system, Alberta should be the first to compete this process after Quebec which already has mandatory premise ID.

Animal identification, premise ID and full animal tracking are the three pillars of the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency’s CLTS which can be accessed by authorized personnel to control animal disease outbreaks and investigate food safety issues.

Animal ID using RFID tags is the only mandatory component nationwide at the present time. Premise ID is the focus now. The CLTS database for animal ID already includes a chip of hidden data with premise ID information that can be manually extracted in a emergency situation.

To do that successfully the premise identification for all Canadian producers must first be validated in the database. The technology to quickly and accurately read tags or markers also must be further developed and made available at an affordable cost.

Canada is the only country with this unique electronic-based traceability system. The European Union uses a paper-based birth certificate. Though it conveys a lot of information about the animal, it’s not easily accessible in emergencies. Australia is just now moving toward using RFID tags after having tried electronic stomach bolus markers with a paper tracking system.

The CCIA is introducing improvements to their website to make it dial-up friendly and include explicit instructions for entering data.

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