BLACK HILLS, S.D. — The best way for cattle producers to tag and track their animals has been a debate over the years.
Traditional metal tagging continues in the industry but some favor Radio Frequency Identification tags, or RFID eartags, which give ranchers the option to electronically keep their animal’s records.
Ranchers can also contact trace their animals who have contracted diseases and keep them from spreading.
Some ranchers feel that the tags would bring many benefits, including saving time identifying animals who have been exposed to diseases, like Bovine Tuberculosis recently found in Corson County this week.
“It’s just a ripple effect where you start with one cow and then it gets rippled out to the cows that she had exposure to and then the other cows that they had exposure to, so an electronic system would make it traceable in hours versus days,” said Eric Jennings the President of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association.
Other ranchers say that their beef isn’t with RFIDs themselves but with how the process was being laid out.
They say that there’s no problems with the current program, so changes shouldn’t be made.
“We’re not necessarily against electronic identification, we’re just against the government saying that that’s what we have to do and that that’s the only way that we can identify our cattle because we’ve been through a formal rule making process, and we have different types available and we think that if that’s going to change, we need to go through that process again and get the entire industry to agree on it,” said James Halverson, the Executive Director of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association.
In April 2019, The USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) tried to mandate the use of RFIDs, but a lawsuit, alleging that the mandate was unlawful, led to its withdrawal. That lawsuit is still pending in Wyoming.