Established by producers in 1998 and incorporated in 2001, Canada’s traceability system is based on three pillars: animal identification, premises identification and animal movement. Led by the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA) Canada’s traceability program is designed and developed for the containment and eradication of animal disease. The Canadian Cattle Identification Program is the only national cattle identification program in North America.

The program requires each head of cattle in Canada to have a Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA) approved ear tag applied prior to leaving the farm of origin. The radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags have a unique identification number that is allocated from a national database. The unique number of each animal is maintained to the point of export or carcass inspection.

In the event that a serious animal health issue is identified, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has two points from which to trace an animal’s movements – the point where the health issue was identified and its herd of origin. The Canadian Cattle Identification Program has been recognized internationally for its effectiveness and cost-efficiency.

The CCA remains active in the policy recommendation for the beef cattle industry as it relates to the next steps of traceability implementation. The Federal/Provincial/Territorial (FPT) Ministers have an agenda to undertake a mandatory comprehensive national system for livestock traceability in 2011.

The main recommendations to accommodate a phased-in approach for a mandatory comprehensive traceability system for beef cattle include:

  • In consultation with the beef industry, develop national regulations with consistent delivery standards and with direct funding support for technology development and implementation by industry stakeholders.
  • In consultation with the beef cattle industry, develop the regulations with a non-punitive, educational approach for a period of time until field studies demonstrate that the technology supports the satisfactory speed of commerce.
  • Premises ID must be completed prior to the implementation of movement reporting. National standards for assigning premises ID are imperative and must be consistent for all provinces. The definition of premises ID for the beef cattle industry is the home quarter or headquarters of the registered operator.
  • The implementation of all aspects of traceability is dependent on technology solutions that do not impede the normal business practises of the industry (commerce). Prior to the implementation of movement reporting, software technology required to download the data from the tag readers and have it in a format that is transferable to the CCIA must be readily available to producers nationally.

Read the CCA's report: Recommendations for Policy on Traceability Implementation for the Canadian Beef Cattle Industry