Dairy Trace (DT), operated by Lactanet Canada that is also doing the proAction and cattle inspections as well as herd management for the Canadian dairy industry, was developed to provide a means of tracing Canadian dairy animals in case of an emergency such as when Mad Cow disease hit years ago.
Coupled with RFID, also known as NLID, tags which can be scanned electronically, this was the answer if the need arose to track the whereabouts and/or travels of dairy animals.
The RFID tags, paid for by the farmer, are clipped into each of a calf’s ears at birth. If it is a bull calf, destined for the beef market, a single white tag is put in one ear. We used to be able to use the cheaper beef tags for them but it was determined they needed their own.
The tags stay in the ear for life. If they are purebred, the number is also used as their registration number and the breed association reports the number activation to DT.
Grade cows and bull calves destined for slaughter are tagged and activated with DT by the farmer. If the animal is sold privately, the buyer reports the herd addition to DT where the system removes it from one herd and adds it to the other. If an animal is sold to slaughter, an “End of Life” report goes to DT and the animal is removed from inventory. If the animal dies on the farm, it is reported to DT by the farmer.
Simple! If it worked.
Almost a year ago, we activated our DT account to comply with the dairy industry’s proAction program. Immediately there was a problem. Our herd inventory was listed at almost 1,000 animals, not the 90 to 100 we generally have. So, we printed out over 25 pages and compared them to our registrations. About 900 had to be deleted. An ominous start.
Next we tried to delete some on farm euthanasia. It refused them all. Turns out that a fourth “0” in the middle of the number must be added to agree with their system. Then we discovered someone had bought a young cow at the sale barn. She remained on our list as the buyer had not added her. Not a dairy farmer but probably a small holder who had bought her to either milk or butcher. We had no idea where she was so I just deleted the number.
Speaking with Dairy Trace about this, I was told it wouldn’t happen. “But it has,” I responded. Well, it is a one-time problem I was told. I know it isn’t. Spread across Canada are thousands of dairy animals, unrecorded and unlocatable!
Almost a year later I am updating our Dairy Trace account. Our inventory was up to 113 head, not including the six bull calves we are raising as meat. Once again I copied the pages and compared them to our registrations.
Guess what, the abattoir/slaughterhouses are not reporting “End of Life” records. Every animal we shipped through the sale barn was still alive and on our farm, according to Dairy Trace.
I was told to delete them myself, but it is someone else’s job, not mine, I argued. They would check and see why our culls were not being reported to them. This was almost a month ago and there has been no explanation.
So, we spend money for tags, take the time to tag and register cattle, add bull calves and new purchases and delete dead animals on the farm. But if no one else is sending in transfers and slaughtered animals, what is the point? In an emergency, these records would be useless.
Those not doing their jobs need to be chased down. I have enough to do.
Angela Dorie is an agricultural writer and a Jersey farmer near Cornwall.