"We need to have producers on board and comfortable with ID technology because it's inevitable that it's coming to New Mexico," Encinias said.
When the idea of mandatory cattle identification was introduced several years ago, cattle producers were concerned about expense, inconvenience and loss of privacy.
But experts stress the importance of controlling cattle diseases before they get out of hand, said Clay Mathis, a livestock specialist with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service. Even though the new system will cost producers more money, it will eventually mean the full tracking of animal movement throughout the nation, he said.
The announced USDA target for a mandatory animal identification program is January 2009, said Ron Parker, an animal ID specialist with NMSU Extension and the New Mexico Livestock Board. At that time, all animals entering marketing channels must be identified.
Now, a final report on both NMSU animal ID technology studies is being compiled for USDA, Encinias said."In the future, we need to look at just how long the RFID tags last under New Mexico's varied and sometimes brutal climate conditions," he said. "And, we need to see how these ID technologies work at the sale barn and other commingling areas."