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Organic Consumers Association

Rebellion in Farm Country over Animal ID System

HORSE SPRINGS, N.M. - Wranglers at the Platt ranch were marking calves the old-fashioned way last week, roping them from horseback and burning a brand onto their haunches.

What they were emphatically not doing, said Jay Platt, the third-generation proprietor of the ranch, was abiding by a federally recommended livestock identification plan, intendfd to speed the tracing of animal diseases, that has caused an uproar among ranchers. They were not attaching the recommended tags with microchips that would allow the computerized recording of livestock movements from birth to the slaughterhouse.

"This plan is expensive, it's intrusive, and there's no need for it," Mr. Platt said.

Mr. Platt said he already did all he could to fight epidemics. He does not bring any outside animals into his herds, and he happily staples on metal tags that identify animals to help with brucellosis control. But as he drove his pickup from grasslands into dense thickets of piƱon pine on this highland desert that requires 100 acres per cow, he explained why he thought the federal plan was wrongheaded.

Mr. Platt called the extra $2 cost of the electronic tags an onerous burden for a teetering industry and said he often moved horses and some of his 1,000 head of cattle among three ranches here and in Arizona. Small groups of cattle are often rounded up in distant spots and herded into a truck by a single person, who could not simultaneously wield the hand-held scanner needed to record individual animal identities, Mr. Platt said. And there is no Internet connection on the ranch for filing to a regional database. 

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