Mandatory livestock ear tags may be less convenient to buy following recent changes to Canadian Cattle Identification Agency requirements.
Retail suppliers of radio frequency identification tags had to sign a new dealer agreement with CCIA by Feb. 3 if they wanted to continue providing tags to customers. About 1,000 such outlets had been operating in Canada, according to CCIA data, but some have decided not to renew their agreements because they say they cannot meet the new terms.
The issue has prompted concern among cattle producers about easy access.
“You can’t buy them locally anymore because of all the new regulations,” said Terry Price, who raises cattle near Tisdale, Sask.
“And it kind of just snuck up on us because I went to buy CCIA tags from the Co-op and the vet clinic and they said, ‘well, we’re not going to handle them anymore because the new regulations won’t allow us to.’ I bought up what I could before they couldn’t sell them anymore. There’s probably quite a few people that don’t know about this.”
Dr. John Ayres of Norsask Veterinary Group, which has clinics in Warman, Sask., and Rosthern, Sask., will no longer offer CCIA tags.
The clinics have supplied tags since the CCIA program began, but Ayres said he was troubled by several aspects when he read through the new agreement.
“It struck me right off the bat that this was a fairly lengthy and fairly complex agreement and that it had several provisions in it that I really had some problems with,” he said.
The agreement requires all records to be computerized and for data to be stored exclusively in Canada. Ayres said he owns the needed software, but the American company from which he bought it has periodic access for upgrades and troubleshooting. That means he wouldn’t meet the CCIA requirement.
The CCIA website indicates that provision is mandated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and is related to data protection and confidentiality.
The agreement also requires tag retailers to carry specific insurance, including “errors and omissions liability insurance” of at least $2 million.
Ayres contacted his insurance broker to check.
“They don’t offer that kind of a product, and in fact it doesn’t appear that that kind of a product is offered anywhere in the insurance business,” he said.
Bob Lowe, an Alberta beef producer who serves on the CCIA board, said an independent audit of the traceability system found delays in data entry and data errors in the Canadian Livestock Tracking System managed by the CCIA.
“The data integrity was appalling, and the less steps you have between the CLTS database and the producer … the better the data integrity is going to be,” Lowe said.
The agency decided to move to one tag distributor, CDMV of Quebec, which also has outlets in Calgary and Halifax. Retailers now have to order tags from CDMV and will be able to do so online. Next year, CCIA plans to charge dealers a fee for allowing them to provide tags.
Lowe said changes might discourage smaller retailers from continuing to provide tags, but the integrity of tag data is vital to the mandatory identification system.
Ayres said changes were announced in late December, giving tag sellers little time to assess and respond. He said he received little satisfaction from the CCIA when he asked about content of the new agreement.