A midst rattling stock trailers and clanging gates an unfamiliar, methodical beep signaled a new era in the cattle industry. As feeder calves passed through single file, a beep emitted by an electronic reader denoted reception of information transmitted from each animal's radio frequency identification (RFID) ear tag. This data translated into additional dollars for producers at Joplin Regional Stockyards' (JRS), Carthage, MO.

“If it puts money in our producers' pockets, we're going to do it,” asserts Jackie Moore, co-owner, JRS.

Driven by this desire, JRS offered, for the first time, source-verified cattle during their Value Added Sale, June 24. Cattlemen realized premiums of $5 to $8/cwt. over JRS's Monday Feeder Calf Sale, June 21.

Buyers actively bid on preconditioned feeder cattle, all outfitted with RFID tags, which allow for trace back to each animal's point of origin. One lot of medium- to large-framed steers, scoring a muscle thickness of No. 1, averaged 516 lbs. and demanded an average of $148/cwt.; while another lot averaged 769 lbs. and averaged $117.97 as the gavel fell. A group of medium to large, No. 1-2 heifers averaged 766 lbs. and $107.63/cwt.

“We want to stay on the cutting edge,” Moore says. “When buyers come in wanting source-verified cattle, we need to have them.”

6,000 Head Offered

Consignors provided those numbers with 6,000 head, 60% were steers while heifers comprised the remaining 40%. Among sellers was Kenneth Elbert, Elbert Angus Farms, Sarcoxie, MO. “I was pleased with what my cattle brought,” he says.

Elbert feels strongly that buyers are going to demand more sales offering vaccinated, weaned and source-verified cattle.

Bruce Corman, owner and manager, Burlington Feeders, Burlington, CO, echoes Elbert. “It is where the industry is going. I think all cattle are going to have to be source-verified at some point,” he adds. “Cattle with two rounds of shots, properly given, and weaned — those always have value.”

The confirmed bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) case in Washington state Dec. 23 escalated talks for a system to source cattle back to their origin. Many producers became uneasy with the prospect of government involvement in their cattle operation.

Steve Owens, co-owner, JRS, explains, “This seemed like an opportune time to implement an animal ID system that is workable for our producers and for us, while learning what our role would be in such a system.”

Some area producers, like Rex Myers, Cassville, MO, expressed reservations. “I was uncertain about source verifying my cattle at first,” he says. Once Myers learned more about this marketing option and saw that a national mandatory ID plan was possible, he says, “We decided to participate, so we could see how it would work.”

Another advantage, Owens points out, is producers will be gaining a valuable management tool from animals that can be traced through every phase of production and processing.

Though this first sale experienced a few hitches, primarily in the flow of cattle, Owens is confident they can be corrected.

“The purpose of this sale was to determine the tools we will use to collect data,” he says.

“I thought the sale went really well. My No. 1 goal is to sell cattle high, and I got that done,” Moore adds. “We are going to continue to source verify cattle as long as it puts money in our producers' pockets. That's why we're in business.”