Ear tag retention study faces funding changes

An ongoing study on cattle ear tag retention has been tagged with problems involving funding and cattle access.

The Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA) organized the study four years ago in response to cattle producer complaints about poor retention of mandated radio frequency identification tags.

Loss of tags can be a problem because they are required when an animal leaves the home ranch.

“It’s been fraught with problems, I can tell you that, and it’s all been money problems,” said Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association chair Mark Elford, who is leading the study.

The plan, which was to be funded by the federal government, involved sample testing of young cattle, cows and bulls from across Canada.

Elford said Agriculture Canada officials supported the plan, and the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration was going to ad-minister it.

“We were promised enough money to get it done, and we’re short of money. We’ve been short of money all the way along,” Elford said.

The federal government then changed the PFRA mandate and name, and access to study data that had already been compiled became temporarily unavailable. That problem has since been rectified.

A later decision to sell PFRA pastures meant the 2,000 PFRA bulls used in the tag study were no longer available.

“We’ve lost the bull side, which is unfortunate,” said Elford, because anecdotal evidence suggests bulls have a higher tag loss than other cattle.

The CCIA applied for five-year funding last summer to complete the study and received enough funding for two years.

On the positive side, Elford said the study on young cattle is mostly complete. It confirms the importance of proper application techniques, location on the ear and brand consistency.

Elford said the study continues, and he hopes it will provide useful information on improving retention. He is also enthused about new tag technology with improved design that could help.

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