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LETTERS – for Feb. 8, 2010

Branding Is Necessary!

Upon reading the article “Is Branding Necessary?” in the January issue of the CATTLEMEN my response is absolutely! I think Doctor Roy Lewis is really out of touch with the realities of cattle ranching in Canada. The notion that a plastic eartag such as an RFID tag can replace a brand is absolutely ludicrous. If a brand is properly applied it will be legible for the life of the animal. Tags are not permanently attached to an animal’s ear and can be easily removed if an animal is properly restrained. Tag retention is far from 100 per cent as cattle are constantly tearing tags out whether it be in bale feeders, fencelines or while being transported in trucks. You name it they’ll tear them out. How can an animal that has lost its eartag and has no brand possibly be identified?

As cattlemen we all know that cattle don’t always stay where you want them to. They crawl fences, they jump fences, gates get left open, they wander and they mix with other people’s cattle. Often cattle can be identified by reading brands at a mere glance. Cattle are not always run into a set of yards to be sorted; often the sorting can be done right out in the pasture by reading the brands. To put it quite simply there isn’t a corral or set of yards in every quarter section in Canada where you can run cattle in and read RFID tags. Even if you have access to a set of yards that has a squeeze chute where you can read the RFID tags what cattleman has the means to identify ownership of the animal by reading an RFID tag number? Ranchers can identify brands with ease and they don’t require an electronic reader to identify their own cattle or their neighbours.

Doctor Lewis also suggests that branding cattle can result in weight loss, injury or even disease. The truth is if an animal is branded properly the stress inflicted on an animal is minimal. I’ve been going to brandings my whole life and I have yet to see a calf get sick or die from getting a brand. Ironically there are plenty of other management practices that present way more stress to animals that are totally overlooked by producers as well as some veterinarians. One example is the overzealous use of antibiotics and how this has become a substitute for good stockmanship and proper animal husbandry. I could name a hundred more examples but I hope you get my point!

For thousands of years cattle have been branded to confirm ownership. I think the reasons we carry on with branding is because it is inexpensive, it’s simple, and it works better than anything that technology has come up with. In this age of technological breakthroughs we should be able to come up with something to leave a permanent mark on an animal but we haven’t and an RFID tag just isn’t the answer. Maybe in the future RFID tags and the implementation of a national traceability program will save our industry from certain Armageddon but I highly doubt it.

This year and in previous years I have invested a lot of money in plastic RFID tags and to this day I haven’t received a return on my investment.

As time goes by bureaucrats keep shackling us with more and more rules and regulations and ingenious ideas that don’t contribute a damn thing to benefit our livelihood. Eventually we have to stand together and say enough is enough. When a realistic, efficient means of identifying our livestock comes along let us know. Until such a time leave us alone and we’ll carry on branding our calves every spring.

ALEX ROBINSON, PIAPOT, SASK.

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