January 28, 2004 | By: Haven Miller

Up until a few years ago, Kentucky cattle producers selling calves left the stockyard knowing only the price they got.  They never knew how those calves performed or what kind of end product they produced.

Nowadays, thanks to a special electronic tagging and tracking system being piloted in the CPH 45 and Value Added Targeted Marketing programs, producers get back valuable data they can use to improve herd management.  These programs are cooperative efforts between the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture and the Kentucky Beef Network.

“Before this system we knew nothing about the grade or the quality score on the cattle,” said Merritt Wade, who owns and operates a cow/calf operation in Fayette County. “Now we have the opportunity to get carcass data back on the cattle and can actually cull our herd based on the data we receive.”

Each animal sold using this system wears a special ear tag.  As the calf goes from the holding pen to the sales arena it passes through an area equipped with a scanner.  The scanner identifies the animal and enters the data into a computer. After the calf is graded for breed and quality, that information is added to the animal’s electronic record.  The owner gets an individual data sheet on each calf, and after the sale receives records for it until it’s an adult beef animal.

“What we’re doing is taking what used to be a paper accounting system and individually tying the identity of the animals to that system so we can quickly and easily find a particular animal, manage the data and give information back to producers and buyers,” said Jim Akers, coordinator of the University of Kentucky’s Beef Integrated Resource Management program.

A recent sale at Lexington’s Bluegrass Stockyards featured calves produced under Kentucky’s Certified Preconditioned for Health, or CPH, program.  The electronic accounting system used for the sale complemented the purpose of CPH, which is to produce a healthy, high quality animal that brings a better price.

“Producers are very positive about this,” said Nick Carter, Fayette County extension agent for agriculture and natural resources with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. “The marketplace has shown us that we’ve gotten great results with an additional four to eight net dollars per hundredweight per animal, so it’s been a great program for Kentucky farmers.”

Another advantage of the electronic system is that it allows any potential problems with an animal to be isolated and identified quickly. Producers see the system as a win/win situation.

“The farmer’s a winner because the quality level is going up, and the buyer benefits because then Kentucky cattle become a valued commodity,” Wade said.



Sources: Jim Akers, 859-278-0899; Nick Carter, 859-257-5582