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4-Hers are mixed on benefit of new premise ID plan
By SUSAN BLOWER
Indiana Correspondent

GREENFIELD, Ind. — Rumors spread as easily as disease at local shows, and livestock owners have differing, sometimes heated opinions about Indiana’s new premise ID program.

At a small cattle exhibition on the Hancock County 4-H Fairgrounds in Greenfield, Ind., the crowd reaction ranged from enthusiasm to anxiety about the future.

“I don’t think the government can run it,” said Steve Grantham, of Pendleton. “I hope they can make it work, but I don’t have a lot of faith in them.”

Grantham said his skepticism is based on what he called the failure of the scrapie program.

Scrapie is a disease in sheep similar to Mad Cow in cattle. He said the scrapie eradication program is confusing, unenforced and inept. In addition, Grantham is unhappy with the government’s interference. He said if the program costs him money down the road, he would be forced to sell his cattle.

“I don’t like them being in my business,” said Grantham, wearing an uneasy smile. “I have 10 4-H crossbred cows ... If this is going to cost me money, my cows are going to town.”

That decision probably would not sit well with his daughter, Brooke. Her steer won champion crossbred honors at last Friday’s show.

In Indiana, registration is free for Premise ID, the first of three phases of a government listing of livestock across the country. Premise ID provides an address and animal type, much like a phone book, for immediate tracing should a disease break out.

What’s next?
What concerns Grantham and other producers, particularly of smaller herds, is the cost of animal ID, the next phase. It is unknown whether the federal government will require ear tags, computer chips, or other forms of ID for this part of the program.

Grantham said he believed he would have to invest as much as any other farmer for a code reader for his 10 head.

“It’s the next step I’m wondering about,” agreed Jeff Griggs, Knightstown hog producer. “It’s the managing of that and the tracking of it. We have limited knowledge of the next step.” Unlike Grantham, Griggs doesn’t mind Premise ID.

“It’s no different from a 911 address, but I am concerned about animal ID. A hog tag doesn’t last,” Griggs said.

Brian Shuter, producer communication manager for the Indiana Beef Cattle Assoc., said he does not know at this time what technology will be used for individual animal ID, phase two of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS).

“It will depend on the species involved. It could be radio frequency ID tags, about the size of a quarter. They’re easy to use. It could be retinal scanning. There’s a lot on the table, and it hasn’t been decided how it will be implemented,” Shuter said.

Shuter is confident, however, that the cost will be minimal. “Producers will not necessarily have to purchase equipment or technology ... We will build systems to keep the cost down,” he said.

Possibilities include veterinarians getting scanners for use by local producers if necessary or simply using paperwork instead of scanners, Shuter said.

“We have to be careful about predicting because we don’t know (about phase two). As soon as we do know tangible information, we will pass it along,” Shuter added. “At the state level, we have input but not much control. It’s all decided on a federal level.”

Shuter said the average cattle herd in Indiana is 18-19 head. For now, premise ID is the focus and the priority, Shuter said.

Makes sense
Bryan Kelly, a 4-H cattle owner in McCordsville, said he thinks Premise ID makes a lot of sense, especially for 4-H animals.

“4-H animals get hauled around more than most animals, from birth to feedlot. We don’t want what happened in the Canadian beef market to happen here. It’s an insurance policy. It’s the unknown that killed the beef industry there,” Kelly said.

Penny Hunt, of Hunt’s Four Corners Farm in Greenfield, said she is for the government registry.

“We think it’s a good thing. It’s a way to keep track of anything that gets into our food source,” Hunt said. “It could save a cattle farmer from having to put down a whole herd as opposed to one location. It’s protecting the consumer and the animal owners, too.”

Grantham acknowledged that the ID program is helpful to the consumer.

“People would be willing to pay premium for certified U.S. beef,” he said.

He has already signed on to the program. “My premise ID number’s been ordered since January. I still don’t have it,” said Grantham, still smiling through his teeth.

This farm news was published in the June 14, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

6/14/2006