Ranchers Split on Embracing Ear Tags

New Federal Proposal Moving Towards Ear-Tagging Cattle

A Texas tradition of cattle branding may soon be a thing of the past for more than 13 million head in the state.

There’s a new federal proposal to move to ear-tagging as the Department of Agriculture is trying to come up with the best way of tracking cattle when it comes to diseases and outbreaks.   

The “EX” brand on Dan Kelly’s Express Cattle mean a permanent mark of home. “We put the EX on our cows so people know where they come from no matter where they go.”

But the Department of Agriculture wants to find a better way to track cattle that move across state lines.  They are proposing a new ear tagging rule, with either radio frequency devices or metal tags.

The tags would allow health officials to quickly track diseases, outbreaks or problems back to where they began.

For Kelly, tagging will be an added cost for the ranch which operates about 10,000 cattle.

"It's a lot of extra costs for producers, you know right now is a bad time for producers in this part of the country we've had so much drought, feed and hay costs are so much higher,” said Kelly. “Our production costs are so much higher that they already are and putting one more thing on top of it could theoretically put people some out of business."

On the other hand, rancher Jeff Sargent prefers ear-tagging on his cattle. "We use that ear tag as a reference, it gives us the information about the age primarily of that calf, the year it's born, the month it's born,” said Sargent.

Sargent assigns an identification number on his cattle. He says new tags will be more efficient in storing information and when it comes to beef exports to other countries.

Ranchers say even if more tags are mandated, Texas branding will never go away.

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