Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Convention- Eyes Traceability, Cattle Stress, Other Production/Marketing Issues

By Larry Stalcup   Contributing Editor

Many producers and feeders are tired of hearing about “traceability.” Well, don’t expect the subject to disappear any time soon.

This spring’s Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) convention ruminated on the topic. The Fort Worth convention was among many state, regional and national cattle groups that had traceability on their agenda during winter and spring conferences. With the border issues faced by Texas producers, many of the more than 3,000 Cattle Raisers attendees were tuned in to a presentation by U.S. CattleTrace CEO Callahan Grund.

The reasons behind the need for traceability may sound like scare tactics. Grund and others contend they are real. If, for example, a cow or steer tested positive for BSE or Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) at a ranch, sale barn or feedyard, it’s exact origin would have to be located immediately. If not, an entire region could see its cattle quarantined. Foreign and domestic markets would crater.
Grund said a national identification system would allow for the U.S. to document the absence of a disease to aid in opening and maintaining access to specific beef export markets like Japan.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) policy adopted in 2013 required all sexually intact cattle more than 18 months of age to have an official form of ID for interstate travel. The USDA issued its final traceability rule this April. It amended the 2013 rule and requires producers to use electronic ID (EID) tags. USDA noted the EID tags are easier to read and would yield a faster traceability response during a foreign animal disease outbreak.

U.S. Cattle Trace CEO Callahan Grund

“We have an opportunity to be proactive, instead of reactive,” Grund said, citing how CattleTrace would help rapidly provide appropriate data to help ID a potentially disease-infected animal.

– Callahan Grund


With the thousands of undocumented aliens crossing into the U.S. at the Mexican border, there is concern that migrants could carry horrific diseases like FMD into the U.S. Traces of the disease could be active on the bottom of a boot, shoe or other item that had physically contacted an infected animal in another country. If the person crossed through a pen or pasture of U.S. cattle, the domestic cattle could be infected. Identification of those cattle would be critical.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) supports the measure and has worked to secure $15 million in federal funding for producers to reduce the cost of implementing this change to EIDs. NCBA, TSCRA and other cattle groups also support the use of a private, industry-managed, non-government entity to collect data on four data points: ID number, time, date and location. That entity is U.S. CattleTrace.

“At U.S. CattleTrace, we are not the enemy,” said Joe Leathers, CattleTrace board member and general manager of the 6666 Ranch locations in Texas. “It was put together from pilot programs from Texas, Florida and Kansas. We have producers from across the U.S. in a voluntary program that is as fluid as it can be for the producer.

“If it has taken 25 years of debate to get to the point we are now. If we have a disease outbreak and the government came in and force-fed us a program, can you image what a disaster it would be? It would be a wreck.”

Grund said CattleTrace does not gather data on producer operations. EID tag readers only record an animal’s ID number and time, date and location, which can be obtained if there is an animal health issue.

“We have an opportunity to be proactive, instead of reactive,” Grund said, citing how CattleTrace would help rapidly provide appropriate data to help ID a potentially disease-infected animal.
Leathers added, “Now is the time to get on board and start developing the plans (for traceability). I’d a whole lot better be at the table than on the menu. If you have ideas, come to the table. Come and have a voice.”

Membership for cow-calf operators is $25 annually. For more on U.S. CattleTrace, visit https://www.uscattletrace.org.

Battling BRD

TSCRA’s School for Successful Ranching featured presentations of various methods for improving animal health, cattle management, marketing and other ranch services. Various products and services were discussed. One session looked at mitigating cattle stress to provide economic and health benefits to producers. It was presented by Don Goodman, DVM, at the TSCRA trade show’s make-shift arena.

“Chronic stress is what we concern ourselves with,” he said, “where we see sick calves and dead calves” after animal’s immune systems break down.

Calf birth, weaning, handling, co-mingling, heat- and cold-stress and improper use of hotshots can produce chronic stress. That can lead to bovine respiratory disease (BRD), which costs producers and the overall industry $3.5 billion a year. One reason is that cattle are often “stripped and shipped,” when cattle are weaned one day and loaded on a truck for shipment the next, Goodman said.

“I’m a big believer in preconditioning programs,” which can help reduce BRD, he said. He added he also has confidence in a product that mimics a naturally occurring substance that reduces stress and its negative consequences for cattle.

The product is FerAppease from FERA. The company describes it as a “synthetic analogue of the Maternal Bovine Appeasing Substance,” which is naturally secreted by the skin of the mammary gland of lactating animals. “It has the unique function of reducing fear and stress and its negative affects in cattle of all ages,” FERA states.

Goodman noted that the product should only be used on healthy cattle. It is not injectable. It is topically applied to the skin above the muzzle. “I used this on my cattle and like the results,” Goodman said, pointing out that it reduced chronic stress and increased production efficiency.

“Animal welfare is the leading concern (of consumers) when it comes to cattle production,” Goodman added, and the reduction of stress will help producers and feeders improve their already strong reputation of caring for their cattle.

“Remember, sick calves don’t eat. Neither do dead ones,” he stressed.

New TSCRA Officers

Lufkin rancher Carl Ray Polk Jr. was elected TSCRA president during the convention. He took the reins from Arthur G. Uhl, who completed his two-year term. Polk and his family operate Polk Land & Cattle Co. in Angelina and Houston counties in East Texas. Stephen Diebel, co-owner and manager of Diebel Cattle Co. in Victoria County, was elected first vice president. Dan Gattis was named second vice president and secretary-treasurer. He is owner of Gattis Cattle Co. and operates out of Georgetown, Texas.

TSCRA has more than 15,000 members, but Polk identified issues that are putting pressure on maintaining that number. “There are many challenges facing TSCRA,” Polk said. “Membership is a real challenge, as we experience industry consolidation and shrinkage of rural communities and family ranches. We (TSCRA) must provide a real value of membership through education, expanded partnerships and tangible values that the association offers.”

A highlight of the convention was the presentation of the Texas Outstanding Rangeland Stewardship Award to Blue Ranch of Dumas. The 19,500-acre spread was recognized for its exceptional stewardship and innovation in managing cattle, water, wildlife and the overall environment.