State ag official: Electronic ID will make out-of-state cattle sales and reporting easier

A herd of cows grazes on land near Coulee Dam, near Moses Lake, Wash.

Washington ranchers now have a quicker and more cost-effective way to report cattle sales and out-of-state movement of their cattle through the Washington State Department of Agriculture electronic cattle transaction reporting.

And consumers will have a better way of knowing where cattle have been raised, and to whom they have belonged, in case of any disease outbreak related to beef.

Chris McGann, a spokesman for the Washington agriculture department, said that in the past, beef producers had to pay fees and travel expenses for state inspectors to make in-person visits when cattle were sold or moved out-of-state.

“When people think about running cattle, branding and identifying who owns the cattle, our livestock (identification) program has a long history in the state and in the country,” McGann said.

As the industry has modernized, there have been many changes, and the identification program ran into some financial trouble. As costs for cattle sales went up, the fees for branding and identifying were not keeping up, he said.

This past year, cattle producers decided to revamp the entire process and look for more efficient and cost-effective ways to transfer cattle ownership.

“One of those areas was to expand the electronic transfer system, which was used for dairy cattle, without the scheduling burden of having to have an inspector come look at a cow,” McGann said.

“If (producers) had the official identification, they could go on a laptop and report the sale. Reporting (cattle) sales is important so that people know who owns the cow. And this system also allows us a quality disease traceability. So if there’s ever a cattle disease, it’s a lot more efficient to find it through cattle that have been reported through this system. It helps us limit quarantine areas and lets us know who owns the cow. If you don’t have that kind of recording, (the cow) could have been anywhere.”

The electronic system is also a significant savings for cattle producers, who can avoid having to call a professional inspector before selling their stock. The agriculture department estimates savings of up to 39 percent in sales fees when using the electronic recording system.

Derek Sandison, director of the agriculture department, said the electronic system “is a major step toward simplifying and streamlining reporting requirements that increases efficiency and reduces costs for our producers, as well as our agency. It demonstrates important progress toward synchronizing the industry and government with today’s technology.”

Hedberg may be contacted at kathyhedberg@gmail.com or (208) 983-2326.

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