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Steers Get Retinal Scans To Prevent Cheating




For the second year, steers that will compete in the Fulton County Junior Fair must have their heads examined.

Actually, it’s just their eyes. The steers must undergo a retinal eye scan to assure their identity. It’s part of a measure to head off cheating.

“We’re one of those counties that’s proactive about animal identity,” said Jill Stechschulte, 4-H Youth Development educator.

In the past, she said there have been accusations that some exhibitors were showing animals that they had purchased only days or weeks before the fair.

It can become a “he said, she said” debate, she said.

Having the retinal eye scan is proof positive that the steer in the show ring is the steer a youngster started with in January.

Retina

Cow’s eyes are similar to human eyes, in that the retina is at the back of the eyeball. The retina takes light coming through the lens and converts the picture to electric impulses, which are sent to the brain.

The retina is supplied with blood by a series of veins embedded in it.

The pattern of the veins is unique to every individual, whether they be humans- or cows.

Stechschulte compared the blood-vessel pattern to a fingerprint.

She said Fulton County 4- H officials perform the retinal scans with a wand-like device.

“They hold it up to the cow’s eye,” she said.

There is no charge for the scan.

At the same time, an electronic tag is attached to the animal’s ear. She said there is a $2 charge for the tag.

Tag-In Day

To compete in the dairy steer, market steer, and born and raised steer competition, the animal must be in a youngster’s possession by Jan. 1.

The tags and scans will be done at the fairgrounds beef breeding building on Saturday, Jan. 17, from 9 am to noon.

Each exhibitor is allowed to tag two animals per class. Stechschulte said that way, if something happens to a youngster’s animal between now and the fair, the youngster has a backup.

If a youngster is competing in all three classes, such as dairy steer, market steer, and born and raised steer, they can tag as many as six animals.

Animals in the dairy feeder and beef feeder calf projects, along with sheep and swine, will be tagged Saturday, June 6, from 9 am to 2 pm.

There is a minor amount of stress on the animals as they are loaded for the trip to the fairgrounds, unloaded, then loaded again for the trip home, “but the benefits outweigh the risks,” Stechschulte said.

The procedure, “cuts down (the cheating accusations) a tremendous amount. It’s worth it in the long run to reduce the amount of cheating,” she said.

Other Benefits

Knowing an animal’s identity can have other long-term benefits.

Stechschulte said a lot of counties are requiring ear tags, as the nation moves toward an official animals ID program for disease prevention.

If an animal headed for butchering is discovered to be ill, a national ID program will allow agriculture officials to trace the animal back to its origin.

With that information, other sick animals can be prevented from entering the human food chain.- David Pugh


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