As this issue of Dairy Herd Management goes to press, federal officials are trying to trace the origins of a cow diagnosed with bovine spongiform encephalopathy. It is the third cow in the
One of the questions that reporters asked at a USDA-sponsored press conference on March 13 was whether the animal was born in the
Meanwhile, the days tick by without knowing the full history of the animal, which doesn’t do much to reassure the public. After watching media reports (“Are your steaks safe?”), people can’t help but wonder if other infected or potentially infected cows exist out there. Herdmates of the
But, if they do trace the
These questions wouldn’t be nearly as daunting if a national animal-ID system were in place. We would have answers much sooner.
As the latest BSE case demonstrates, we need to step up the pace of getting an animal-ID system implemented, despite the obvious distractions.
It was very discouraging last Oct. 12 to be an eyewitness to the kind of sniping and turf-war battling that has characterized the animal-ID effort so far. USDA hosted an animal-ID hearing in
and invited all of the organizations (across a wide range of species) that would have a stake in it. Only one person — Bob Hillman, executive director of the Texas Animal Health Commission — made a cogent argument for getting ID implemented as soon as possible. He seemed to grasp the big picture. Others at the meeting seemed intent on promoting their own organizational interests or else getting bogged down on the administrative aspects of a proposed records database. Kansas City
On March 8, an article appeared on the opinion page of The Kansas City Star newspaper, entitled, “Big Brother watching your cow.” (The article originated from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.) It described the animal-ID effort as the “brainchild of big agribusiness.” A reader might conclude that the whole thing is an unnecessary bureaucratic incursion into people’s private lives and a conspiracy to sell more high-tech equipment.
Perhaps the latest BSE case will bring some sense of reason back to the debate.