Defective ear tags are threatening the health of Utah cattle herds

Apr 27, 2023, 7:49 AM | Updated: Oct 19, 2023, 10:48 am

SPRINGVILLE, Utah — Several veterinarians and ranchers across the state are dealing with an unusual problem, missing ear tags from bulls.

They’re called trich tags, and they help identify which animals have been tested for a dangerous venereal disease. The tags work like earrings with a front tag and a back button to hold the tag. If the button is lost, it will cause problems.

Calvin Crandall’s family has raised cattle in Springville for four generations. All of his bulls wear the colored tags to show they’ve been tested for trich.

“Trichomoniasis. It’s a sexually transmitted disease in cattle,” Crandall explained.

Dr. Amanda Price, the state’s interim veterinarian, says three herds have tested positive in Utah this year.

“It can reduce the number of calves that people get, so it’s a really serious disease if a herd gets it,” Price said.

A certified vet tests Crandall’s bulls annually.

“Now this one has lost his,” Crandall said as he pointed at a bull. “We went with a different manufacturer this year than we have in the past, and unfortunately, we’re having some issues with the buttons that go on the back of tags.”

The buttons are breaking or not functioning as they should.

“It’s not uncommon to lose a tag,” Crandall explained. “It is very uncommon to have a tag that’s only been installed for 30 days, and it’s falling out.”

But luckily, there is a backup.

Price said, “We’re also allowing veterinarians to put new tags in.”

It’s a chore for cattlemen like Crandall. The bulls also have smaller, radiofrequency i-d tags in their opposite ear.

“We’re giving people the benefit of the doubt this year in looking into each case that’s reported to us,” Price said.

A missing tag and a missing trich test come at a cost. Price said it’s a possible citation of $1,000 per bull.

No one wants to compromise the health of Utah’s cattle.

Crandall said, “We’re trying to eradicate it, and we’re making good inroads by trich testing the bulls.”

The state has ordered higher-quality tags. Meanwhile, the main goal is to stop the spread of the disease.

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Defective ear tags are threatening the health of Utah cattle herds