As fall markets prepare to receive the current calf crop as it comes off the cow, producers initiate late-summer and fall roundups in what becomes an annual, well-planned exercise that repeats every year.
This rhythmic exercise becomes quite historic and predictable. That is good, but a note of caution certainly is advised. The BeefTalk column always ends with:
"May you find all your ear tags." Some appreciate the note and others do not.
Some producers meticulously account for every calf by individual ear tag number, even to the extent of expressing individual anxiety if a particular number is not present. In contrast, some producers display considerable anxiety when the concept of individual ear tags even is discussed.
With that being said, it is important to note that all beef producers market into the same marketing pool, which is the consumer. This consumer may be local, regional, national or international. Nevertheless, beef is consumed.
The North Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement Association (NDBCIA) has managed individual cattle ear tags for years, while the producers manage the cattle. The NDBCIA has expanded the management of ear tags by adding age and source verification.
That process, at least for the NDBCIA, is called CalfAid. The program is reviewed and certified by the Agricultural Marketing Service in the U.S.
Department of Agriculture. The NDBCIA is audited annually and certainly keeps updated with what is happening in the industry.
Thus, the note of caution as producers began to sell cattle this fall. Age- and source-verification programs continue to be an important part of marketing cattle. Although the speeches and exciting proposals for marketing age and sourced calves no longer are big news items, the desire and the need to know where cattle come from and, in many cases, how old the cattle are, still is active.
Each program, in its own right, is effective and serves a very good purpose.
However, here lies the note of caution. Age and/or source verification regulated and impeccable programs are used to verify to the letter what is being offered in the market and to the consumer. There is no room for error.
Therefore, as producers, care needs to be taken as to what one is certifying. It is not unusual for a late afternoon call to the NDBCIA office from a feedlot verifying individual calf numbers. The feedlot may have received or will be shipping soon a lot of cattle that will be going into an age and source or other identity-preserved program.