Concerning your December issue's individual animal identification (ID) discussion, I would hope the government starts with a producer premise ID program. In all reality, that's probably all we need to get 48-hour trace back. I'd like to see the individual ID of food animals optional as long as we have no further disease problems in the U.S.

As for the agency to handle the information/records, I nominate USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA). They have most, if not all, cattle producers registered in the states hit by drought the last few years, and there's an FSA agency office in about every county.

Producers with farm ground are already accustomed to doing business with local FSA people. And the government “feed program” allowed cattle producers in these areas to get to know their local FSA folks. FSA has the staff and the database capabilities, and would allow the records (location and transfer of ownership) to be kept locally.

The government isn't really interested in animals' genetics or performance. USDA wants to know where the beast was born and the stops on its way to the harvest facility, period.

If a problem arises, then producers can provide information on handling, feeding, vaccination, etc. I would encourage producers to start keeping detailed records on all animals born on their place.

I'm not comfortable with any more information than the location(s) of food animals being in the private or governmental sectors. As for cattle being shipped to other counties or states, that information could be easily transferred from one FSA office to another.

Radio-frequency ID on a voluntary, individual basis is probably fine, even though the current technology is outdated. The metal tag we've used for years for brucellosis eradication would be fine for the producer/premise aspect of the program. Its retention capabilities are proven.

C.J. Oakwood
President, CattleCo Data Systems

Thanks For BSE Info

I am a high school senior currently working on a report and an article for the school newspaper about the solitary case of BSE that has been in the news. Your Web site was very helpful in writing my report. From your site, I linked to the very helpful site.

The sites gave me the information I needed to finish my report and my article and to try to convince other people that it is perfectly safe to eat beef, which I frequently do myself. Thank you for the resources you have provided me.

Allan Hutchison-Maxwell
West Newbury, MA

The Activists Are Right

I was raised on an Illinois grain and cattle farm. I showed cattle for many years in 4-H. My parents still raise cattle, and I have a small herd of my own. Thus, this letter comes from someone with his heart and soul in the cattle business.

I never thought I would ever say this but I and many other producers agree with some of the demands of the activist groups. I favor a total ban on bone meal, chicken litter, etc. in any livestock feed. These by-products can be used as fertilizers but they don't need to be fed to cattle, sheep, hogs, chickens, etc.

We've used corn and soybean meal to finish our cattle for the past 20 years. Before that, we used commercial supplement that contained all sorts of things (bone meal, chicken litter, etc.) The calves were always sick and we'd lose one or two calves each year. That's a big hit in a group of only 20-25 brood cows.

Since switching to soybean meal, we see the vet less often, the cattle are healthier looking and they gain better.

PJ McCullough
Lebanon, IN