‘It just won’t work’Electronic tracking systems might not work in the cold, snow and rain that cattlemen and their herds must endure, said Will Wolf, who raises up to 300 head of cattle at his ranch south of Spokane, Wash., and markets 25,000 cattle each year from the region. "It has to be a system that works at the speed of commerce or close to it,” he said. "There are way too many problems to do it. It just won’t work.” The ability to trace animals from birth to slaughter became crucial after the discovery of mad cow disease in a Mabton, Wash., dairy cow in December 2003. That cow’s origins later were traced to Canada, but federal authorities were never able to trace all the animal’s herdmates, which may have eaten the same feed. The only way cattle are known to get the disease is by eating feed containing certain tissues from infected animals.
S. pork products, even though there is no evidence the virus is spread by food. The proposed system does nothing to prevent disease, and animal tracking would be better left for states to handle themselves, said Wade King, president of the Cattle Producers of Washington. "USDA should be focused on preventing the disease instead of tracing it,” he said. "The feds shouldn’t be getting into this program.” Carol Osterman of Akyla Farms in LaConner, Wash., said her small farm of cattle, goats, pigs, llamas, poultry and horses would be forced to close if the suggested "regulatory burden” becomes a reality. She recommended the program be eliminated, or at best, applied only to large, confined-animal feeding operations.