Livestock producers in seven Western states have started a pilot program to track their animals from birth to death, part of a move to safeguard consumers and herds from mad cow disease.

The Northwest Pilot Project hopes to find workable and cost-effective tracking systems in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Utah, Nevada and Hawaii, said coordinator Julie Morrison of the Idaho Cattle Association.

The western pilot project involves a coalition of cattlemen and dairy associations, state departments of agriculture, universities and other industry groups. The trial will involve about 27,000 head of livestock - mostly beef cattle and dairy cows, but also about 1,100 sheep.

Using traditional brands, ear tags, radio frequency ID tags and computer bar coding, the producers hope to successfully track 75 percent of the enrolled animals over the next three to four years, Morrison said.

For the remaining 25 percent that may fall out of the tracking system, the project hopes to be able to explain why, she said.

Source: Association Release