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Ear Tag Silence Is Not Golden

George Svederus of Eureka River, Alta., is frustrated with the ear tag business. He’s not impressed with how well the RFID tags approved by the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA) stay in the ears of cattle.

And then when he calls the offices of people who should be concerned about these matters, no one will talk to him.

He doesn’t sound like a crackpot who’s on the phone every 15 minutes blaming the world for a host of problems. He’s just a cow-calf operator living about 100 miles north of Grande Prairie who says if cattle are loosing tags before they get to auction, and then replacement tags are applied at the auction, that really doesn’t do much to fulfill this concept of livestock traceability back to the farm.

And then to add insult to injury, when he wanted to describe his experience with RFID tag retention, no one at the CCIA office would return his calls, the Alberta Agriculture deputy minister wouldn’t talk to him about faulty tags, and even though someone at Alberta Ag Minister Jack Hayden’s office said they would get back to him, several weeks have gone by with no calls received.

Svederus and his family run about 220 head in a commercial cow-calf operation. He’s been a supporter of the concept of age verification and mandatory traceability of cattle. He’s been as compliant as possible.

In Eureka River, the local UFA store and a local veterinarian both sell the mandatory CCIA RFID ear tags. The only tag brand both those suppliers carry is the Reyflex tag.

Svederus has used some type of ear tags in cattle for more than 30 years, and still has dangle tags in cattle ears for visual identification. He knows how to apply tags, and uses the proper tool with the proper tag. But, even so, he figures roughly 10 per cent of the RFID tags in his cattle are lost each year. Now he doesn’t tag fall calves until they are about to leave the farm.

“At the Grande Prairie auction, which is also a tagging station, they charge about $5 per head to apply tags, plus the cost of the tag,” he says. “Any animal that doesn’t have an RFID tag is tagged before auction, but that doesn’t do much in a system where the goal is 100 per cent traceability back to the farm.”

Svederus says if 10 per cent of the cattle in Canada are losing tags, that not only leaves a pretty big hole in the traceability system, but he also suspects it would throw out the count on how many cattle are actually being tagged.

He has seen tags, in his own cattle, where it appears the metal pin has simply fallen out. Other tags seem to snap halfway up the post. Ears aren’t ripped. Some tags just seem to break or come apart. While CCIA tests tag retention at a wide range of high and low temperatures, even down to -30 C, he wonders how well they do in his area where winter temperatures can get as low a -45 C. Svederus says the material in the Reyflex tags seems too light to stand up to sun, temperature and typical rangeland conditions.

He also found the wand readers for RFID tags don’t work unless they’re held within one or two feet from the animal’s ear, which isn’t practical even at the auction mart let alone out on pasture.

He knows there is a complaint form on the CCIA website for reporting problems with RFID ear tags, but then when you don’t have Internet that process doesn’t work very well. But he also found that calling the CCIA, Alberta deputy minister of agriculture and minister of agriculture to speak to someone in person to report problems doesn’t work very well either.

If you’ve had a good or bad experience with RFID tags I would be glad to hear from you by phone or email. I am not offering to investigate or “fix” problems, but mostly I am just curious to hear about producer experience. Call me at 403-592-1964 or email: [email protected]

Lee Hart Editor


While most beef producers would likely expect that two to five years is the average useful lifespan of a breeding bull, Ruth Racha of Iron River, Alta., has a healthy, vigorous, silver-bullet-producing herd sire that has been on the job for 12 years and shows no signs of slowing down.

Racha, who owns Red Rush Red Angus bought the yearling bull in 2000 from long-time Angus breeder Stan Harder, (now retired) who farms in the St. Paul area. The bull, Red Pine Meadow Ump, affectionately known as Duby, has been doing his thing on the Red Rush farm ever since, producing well over 100 calves that themselves have gone on to be good breeding bulls or excellent producing females.

One of his sons is a breeding bull at a neighbour’s farm and that bull is 10 years old, too.

“Duby is my herd sire and is just an amazing bull,” says Racha. “He has a great temperament and excellent fertility. He also produces great calves.”

Racha, says Duby’s calf birth weights average about 80 pounds, while calf weaning weights average 685 pounds. He produces excellent daughters with good udders, good milk, good feet and legs and overall nice confirmation.

“I have several of his daughters in my own herd,” says Racha, noting that Duby services about 20 unrelated females a year. “He’s a nice polite bull, he’s never been sick, although I took him to a vet once because he banged his foot and got a crack in it, but that was the only time. And I don’t treat him any different than the rest of the bulls.”

Although Racha is planning to collect semen from Duby this year, there are no signs of him slowing down as a herd sire. “He’s healthy and he looks great,” she says. “People come into the yard and guess he might be a five-year old.”


There were a couple questions after a feature on nose pump cattle waterers appeared in the October 18 issue of Cattleman’s Corner, about whether any left-over water in the bowl drains back down the pipe into the original water source, whether it be a dugout or a well. The answer is no.

Jim Anderson, who developed the Nose Pump, says the stem or nipple where water comes into the bowl stands five inches tall, while the trough or bowl is only four inches deep. So if there is any excess water, rain or slobber that goes into the bowl it just splashes out over the side, and doesn’t go back down the fresh water supply pipe. (See photo, which shows the height of intake nipple compared to the edge of the bowl).

Anderson says not all pasture-watering systems have this feature, so it is an important question to ask. You don’t want slobber, manure and other bacteria going back into your fresh water source.


Letter to the Editor

It seems that there is more talk about government programs these days than ever before. The federal and provincial governments have started a consultation process to develop the next suite of programs to replace Growing Forward, which is the package that

includes AgriStability, AgriInvest, AgriRecovery and Crop Insurance. The goal is to create business risk management programs. The idea is all right as long as producers don’t think that because governments will manage the risks for us we can take more risks. Most people tell me that they believe in free markets and free enterprise and they don’t want government involved in their business except in the case of disasters. The problem is that lately our industry has become so vulnerable that every issue is a disaster. Our real goals should be to create an industry where individual cattle producers can manage their own risk.

However there is a request by some to insure the price paid for our cattle. Price Insurance has evolved because of this. The SSGA supports the concept of a price insurance program where producers could insure a future price based on the current market signals. This would not be a support program it would be only a tool you could use to lock in a price based on a prediction of the price at a certain point in time. The producer would then pay a premium to protect against any price drop. Alberta currently has this program in place for cattle fed in that province. The goal is to create a national program for all Canadian cattle producers that would cover cow-calf, feeder and fed cattle sectors. The Alberta program is operated by the province with producers paying 100% of the premium. This kind of program would need government involvement with regard to administration and guarantees; however the SSGA does not believe the government should pay any part of the premium. There is a real risk of trade action if the government gets involved. The cattle industry in Canada relies so much on foreign trade that we can not risk a countervail action by other countries. I also think that for this program to remain market neutral, and not disadvantage producers who choose not to be involved, the people who choose to buy this type of insurance should have to pay the full cost of all premiums.

Calvin Knoss SSGA President


The Western Stock Growers’ Association (WSGA) wishes to inform Alberta cattle producers it does not support the new mandatory one-dollar checkoff. This governance is a result of a memorandum of agreement between Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) and Alberta Cattle Feeders Association (ACFA) which forced a mandatory levy of one dollar per head marketed on Alberta producers to fund the national checkoff organization.

Although it has not been made clear when this will be put into effect, the WSGA still recognizes that the primary producer has been let down. “The government has made a turnaround on this issue now by making the one dollar national checkoff mandatory, says Bill Hanson, WSGA President. “And because the WSGA and other beef producer groups were intentionally left out of the consultations on this issue, not all producers were represented at a national level and that needs to change.” While the refundable checkoff has only been in effect for less than six months, the WSGA states that this program needed time to prove it can be successful. Now that the refundable checkoff option is removed, grass-roots producers’ will lose the leverage necessary to help direct changes at the national level.

The memorandum of agreement between the Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) and the Alberta Cattle Feeders Association (ACFA) was released publicly on Sept. 10, 2010, having been signed by the parties on Sept. 2, 2010. For a copy of the memorandum of understanding please see our website at or call the office at 403 250 9121

Bill Hanson WSGA President


‘Tis the season of the major bull sales for 2011. If you have an upcoming bull sale planned and would like it listed send an email to Cattleman’s Corner, I will try and fit them in.

M.C. Quantock –“Canada Bulls”sale, Lloydminister, Alta. – Saturday Jan. 29, 2011 –check the website at for details.

Lazy S RanchBull Power Sale – at the Ranch, Mayerthorpe, Alta., Saturday Jan. 29, 2010.

Soderglen SelectBull Sale, Airdrie, Alta. — at the ranch February 12, 2011.

Willabar Ranch–12TH annual Angus Bull Sale, at the Ranch, Claresholm, Alta., February 22, 2011.

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.



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