040304 South Dakota Working on Beef Tracking System

March 6, 2004

Mitchell, SD - A voluntary system in South Dakota to track beef from birth to the butcher will be up and running by summer, according to state Agriculture Secretary Larry Gabriel.

Tracking cattle has gained attention because of Mad Cow disease and also is important in niche marketing because consumers will pay more for beef if they know where it was raised and by whom, Gabriel said.

"As Gov. (Mike) Rounds has said, we raise some of the best beef animals anywhere in the world."

About 1.8 million calves will be born in South Dakota this year. Calves to be tagged with a computer chip in a round tag about the size of a 50-cent piece.

"You will probably see two tags," Gabriel said. "One would be the electronic identification (EID) and another tag that would be readable from a distance."

Global tracking systems can record movement of the animals from weaning to the feedlot and ultimately to the packing house. Information will include an ID number, animal history, where it was born, finished, its weight gains, what it was fed, and inoculations.

"If ever there was a disease problem, you could go in and know where it was raised, the same herd, as well as animals next to it," Gabriel said.

Gabriel expects the cost to producers will be $3 to $5 per head, depending on how much information the producer desires.

"I think it's very affordable," said Gabriel, a cattle producer. "When I precondition our calves, I give them over $4 in shots right now. It's an extra expense, but the upside and added value it gives those animals will more than offset the cost."

Gabriel said he hopes at least 5 percent of South Dakota producers will participate the first year.

"That's a pretty small goal, but if 5 percent can generate a positive premium in the market place, it'll grow," he said.


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