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National dairy cattle traceability program set for fall launch

DairyTrace aims to provide a national picture of dairy cattle identity and movements, and instill consumer confidence

A national dairy cattle traceability program is set to launch in Canada in October.

The program, called DairyTrace, aims to provide a single, common framework for dairy farmers to track animal identity and movements.

DairyTrace will be managed by Lactanet Canada, which works to support dairy herd improvement, in collaboration with lobby and policy group Dairy Farmers of Canada. The two organizations have been working together on the development and implementation of the DairyTrace program since 2016.

Brian Van Doormaal, chief services officer at Lactanet, said Canada currently had a partial dairy traceability system, and the new program would establish full traceability.

Quebec has had a full traceability program for more than 18 years, led by Agri-Traçabilité Québec (ATQ). ATQ will be hosting, supporting, and transferring data to the DairyTrace system.

There are three pillars of full traceability, said Van Doormaal. Not all the components are new, but the data will be harmonized under the new national program.

The first is identifying all animals with a unique lifetime number (using ear tags), which has already been in place in Canada for a number of years. The second pillar is the unique identification number of each premise where cattle can reside—another requirement that was previously in place within each province. The third pillar, which currently only exists in Quebec, is to track all movements of each animal from one premise to another from birth to death. This is the new component that DairyTrace will deliver at a national level.

“What we’re doing here is building that last pillar, where we establish a database that receives and stores all of the movement of all dairy animals nationally,” said Van Doormaal. “So, we take the animal IDs, and we take the premises IDs, and we now link animal movement to those over the course of the animal’s lifetime.”

Van Doormaal said that’s especially important in the event of a disease outbreak: the program will enable the industry to quickly identify animals that might be affected and the source of the disease.

DairyTrace will also serve to maintain high consumer confidence that the dairy industry is a responsible sector, said Van Doormaal.

“Consumers want more information about where their food product comes from and what the quality of that product is,” he said. “The dairy industry wants to be responsible and prove to our consumers that the dairy products they are buying and consuming in Canada come from Canadian farms, that we know where those animals have moved in their lifetime, and that we can track farm-of-origin on the animals and their products.”

A communications plan that aims to educate dairy farmers about DairyTrace is currently being finalized, and the program is set to launch on Oct. 5.

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