Source Verification in the Cattle Business

May 2003
Christy Biggy - Sarasota County Extension, Integrated Agriculture Agent

Operating a traditional business in a constantly changing world has encouraged many cattlemen to change the way they do business. No longer are a handshake and a neighbor's word acceptable documentation when selling cattle. Governmental regulations and today's society have required source verification for cattle.

At any given time a business owner should know what they have in inventory, what they are producing, and what the future outcomes of the business should be. The goals and objectives set for your cattle business cannot be realized without a proper method of measuring the outcome of the business. Regardless of the size of your herd, it is important to maintain performance records to measure productivity. Using performance records requires individual identification of cows and calves so that production goals can be meet and a desirable product produced.

Information is crucial for objective decision-making in the cattle business. One of the best investments could be developing an information management system that will help you identify the strengths and weaknesses within the operation.

Many cattle operations incorporate good management practices into their operation, but a lack of documentation or verification systems limit their ability to receive higher prices for the value they add to their calves. An information management system can serve double duty, first by helping identify steps for improvement, and then by helping you document practices that add value to your cattle. Source verification is increasingly becoming a powerful incentive when marketing cattle.

The marketplace has offered a wealth of good news to beef producers lately. Cattle numbers are down and beef demand is improving domestically and internationally. Cattle prices are healthy and most forecast show profits for cow-calf producers for the next couple of years. However, new Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) regulations could require large investments in record keeping and animal identification. It will be easier for many producers to invest in these changes during a good year, rather than being forced into it at a time when the market is down. Under COOL, cow-calf producers and feeders will be expected to maintain records or "audit trails" that prove where their cattle were born and raised.

You can't manage what you don't measure. Individual, animal identification is becoming a mainstay of many marketing and information-management programs. Source verification will provide for proper business management practices and help the business realize goals and objectives.

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