Branding is still a necessary part of the cattle business

Whether it’s accessing the loan guarantee program or deterring theft, cattle brands are still needed

The Feeder Associations of Alberta Limited wishes to respond to the column by Roy Lewis that appeared in the July 15 edition and was titled “Is there really any need to brand cattle anymore?

Through the Feeder Associations Loan Guarantee Program (FALGP), which is backed by government, the feeder associations finance between 20 to 25 per cent of the calf crop in Alberta. This is approximately 350,000 head.

Alberta is also the beef capital of Canada, with more than 40 per cent of the national herd. There are 45 producer-run co-operative associations throughout Alberta that administer the program on a local level.

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The Feeder Associations of Alberta attributes the success of the program largely to the fact that the cattle are branded, with peer oversight from the local feeder associations.

The value of cattle has been increasing over the past number of years, with a subsequent increase in cattle theft. Branding is presently the strongest deterrent to cattle theft — being the only permanent form of identification — and is the safest way to protect the security interest of the government guarantee. Under the FALGP, branding provides a lower-cost financing to the producer with a five per cent security deposit versus the down payment or additional security requirements from other financing means.

Current statistics from Livestock Identification Services indicate that in 2018, 4,771,211 head of cattle were inspected — and of those, 46 per cent (or 2,201,771 head) were branded. The total number of calves inspected were 819,919 head — and of those 426,645 head were branded or 52 per cent.

These numbers have been consistent for the past few years.

In addition, cattle returned to their owners or money properly paid based on brands resulted in 22,426 head being held. Of those cattle 13,852 were released to the contributor and 8,574 head released to the rightful owner.

The Canadian Cattle Identification Agency’s low-frequency RFID tag is the only nationally approved identification method. This method of identification is found in some cases to be not as cost effective, foolproof or practical as these tags can be cut out.

Testing continues by various agencies with alternative technology such as ultra-high-frequency (UHF) tags and GPS (to name a few), which could eventually prove to be more practical to read and a more cost-effective form of identification.

Pilot projects, currently underway by one of our member associations, are exploring and testing alternative methods of identification other than branding. But these would be limited to feedlots or confined feeding situations.

Joe Kuhar is the general manager of the Feeder Associations of Alberta Ltd.

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