Traceability Expands

Beef Traceability Project Now in Five States

Victoria G Myers
By  Victoria G. Myers , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
With five states now part of CattleTrace, and 7 more in discussions to join, beef traceability is making progress nationwide. (DTN/Progressive Farmer photo by Jim Patrico)

A year ago a pilot project was announced to bring cattle traceability to Kansas. The program, called CattleTrace, touted a public-private partnership aimed at the development and testing of an infrastructure that could one day expand to a national scale.

The program, based out of Manhattan, Kansas, continues to gain momentum, and has installed readers and tags in not only Kansas, but in partner organizations in the states of Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kentucky. In addition, CattleTrace organizers are in discussions with leaders in seven other states to extend the program. Those states include: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Texas.

The ultimate goal of CattleTrace is to build a national database to allow rapid trace-back of a diseased animal. Initially the Kansas Department of Agriculture and the Kansas Livestock Association, set a goal of tagging 55,000 calves in that state. The group notes it is close to meeting that goal.

Other states are at different points in the adoption process. In Oklahoma, CattleTrace reports 20,000 tags have been distributed and UHF readers installed at two livestock markets. In Missouri, UHF readers were installed at the Kingsville Livestock Auction, and producers who would like to participate can contact that auction market for information on getting tags. In Kentucky, UHF readers are at Blue Grass Stockyards in Lexington. In Nebraska, a backgrounding yard has installed UHF readers; and in Wisconsin, where cattle originate going to that Nebraska backgrounder, applications of the technology are also in development.

CattleTrace reports it is in the process of evaluating read rates across locations. The read rate at livestock markets is at 94%; at feedyards it is at 98%. These rates are expected to improve as the technology advances. The goal is to fine tune the UHF technology and determine if the data collected is adequate to meet the group's traceability goals.

Here's how CattleTrace works. Described as a third-party entity, CattleTrace is private and nonprofit. Only CattleTrace personnel having access to data collected. Tag readers are installed at cattle collection points, capable of picking up and transmitting data--including animal identification numbers, GPS locations and date/time stamps. The program is hands-free, and nearly maintenance free. It tracks animals as they move from farms, to sale barns, to feedlots and eventually to packing plants.

At the announcement of the pilot program last year, Brandon Depenbusch, vice president of cattle operations for Innovative Livestock Services (ILS) said the project is an opportunity "to develop a cattle disease traceability system on our terms. The capabilities of CattleTrace will enable us to do the right thing for animal health and biosecurity, and for the entire U.S. beef cattle industry."

After some experience with the system, Depenbusch recently compared it to the K-TAG system on the Kansas Turnpike.

"If you have a K-TAG in your car, you just drive right on through the toll booth and don't have to stop. If you don't have a K-TAG, you have to go through the alternate booth; that slows me down and slows the speed of commerce.

"In the cattle industry we can run multiple animals down an alleyway, a hundred at a time, and it catches all of those reads as the animals run through," he says, explaining CattleTrace. "Each pass sends a signal that places each animal at a given point in the production cycle. From that database in Manhattan [Kansas], officials who are granted access can respond within minutes to any report of suspected animal disease."

For more details about CattleTrace, see their website at

Ultimately, "It's important for all segments of the industry to have a tool such as CattleTrace to be able to track animals just in case of a disease outbreak."

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Victoria Myers