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Thinking is more important than talking

The world that business existed in yesterday is not the same world that business will exist in tomorrow. The beef business is no different.

By Kris Ringwall
NDSU Extension Beef Specialist

The North Dakota Stockmen's Association just finished its
annual meeting. This annual gathering of cattle producers and
those associated with the industry is always a good event.

The Dickinson Research Extension Center was not able to
participate in all of the events, but we were able to help
with the Friday evening meal. All must have enjoyed the meal
because the stew kettles returned to the kitchen empty.

The menu was simple, four stews and an assortment of breads.
Paul Berg from the North Dakota State University Animal and
Range Sciences Department headed up the cooking crew. Travis
Maddock and fellow NDSU graduate students assisted him. Beef,
as the old saying goes, was for dinner. There was no need to
pile on the extras.

In addition to providing some excellent beef and the
associated service with sponsoring a meal, we took the
opportunity to have some fun while encouraging everyone to
think, at least a little bit.

Entrance to the feast was guarded. The entrances were all
secured with a multitude of electronic scanning devices.
Actual participation required everyone to be identified with a
radio frequency identification tag, commonly called an EID,
which is short for electronic identification.

Upon tagging, the EID was scanned into a database. Each
individual's gender, date of birth and place of birth was
recorded. All participants were thus EID source and age
verified. The process went along at a reasonable pace, with
four lines moving simultaneously. While not everyone was
cooperative, all who were there to eat were tagged. There may
have been a few holdouts at the end who slipped in and grabbed
some stew, but we will catch them at the next scanning event.

The participants were tagged with low-frequency, half- or
full-duplex tags and given a neck chain with a tag
representing the world of high-frequency tags. Brand
inspectors, equipped with hand-held readers, moved throughout
the crowd reading the low-frequency tags. Engineers from
NDSU's Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering and the
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering were on hand
to scan the high-frequency tags as participants enjoyed an
evening of stew.

The process was relatively uneventful, but certainly placed
the issue of electronic identification front and center with
producers. Positive and negative comments about identification
were overheard. What do you need "this" for? Now you're going
to track everything I do! I suppose you will zap me while I am
sleeping tonight! Why do you want to know "that"? Why do I get
a white tag and he gets a yellow tag? What is the difference
between the tags?

In retrospect, the event pointed out the need to stay focused
on the issues. We already know that not all technology works
as we would like. Working with cooperative and even some
uncooperative people in the comfort of a motel is simpler than
working bawling cattle exposed to the elements.

While technology works, not all of the applications expected
of the technology do. Every twist brings new insight and every
new environment brings new headaches. Expected outcomes and
reality often are distinctly different.

The world changes every day. The world that business existed
in yesterday is not the same world that business will exist in
tomorrow. The beef business is no different.

Today, in the beef industry, tags are real. Tags are coming,
but how they will be used is only a thought. The simultaneous
existence of your thoughts, my thoughts and all thoughts are

Many questions crop up during discussions about animal
identification. The answers are unknown, but the questions are
real. It is important to continue thinking because maybe, just
maybe, tomorrow's business will be your business.

May you find all your NAIS-approved ear tags.

Your comments are always welcome at

For more information, contact the NDBCIA Office, 1133 State
Ave., Dickinson, ND 58601 or go to http://www.CHAPS2000.COM/ on the


NDSU Agriculture Communication

:Source: Kris Ringwall, (701) 483-2427,
:Editor: Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,

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