Traceability: Improve your Bottom Line and Protect Ontario's Beef Industry

What is traceability?

Traceability is the ability to follow animals and food products through all stages of the supply chain - from farm to retail counter. It is an effective method for tracking an animal or a product, along with its attributes such as "locally raised" as it moves between locations.

Traceability for livestock business operators:

  • Enhances operational efficiency such as labour improvements
  • Reduces operational costs
  • Informs management and genetic improvement decisions
  • Increases sales

When the information collected by individual operators is shared (reported) and managed properly, as outlined by the Canadian Livestock Traceability Systems operated by the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency, traceability can be beneficial to the whole industry. More information about the benefits of traceability can also be found at TraceCanada's website (

Traceability for the livestock industry:

  • Allows for effective and efficient animal health incident management
  • Increases market access, competiveness and consumer confidence
  • Protects your business and reduces market risk.

How does traceability work?

Effective traceability hinges on three key pillars:

  1. Premises Identification
  2. Animal Identification and
  3. Animal Movement Recording and Reporting.

1. Premises identification:

Premises are identified with a Premises Identification Number (PID), which is a unique identifying number assigned to a parcel of land on which farming or food processing activities take place. There are more than 7,500 premises registered for beef cattle in Ontario.

Why should I get a PID?
  • Premises identification can strengthen your business' traceability system, which in turn improves your ability to market your products and protect your brand.
  • Retailers are starting to require traceability from their suppliers; having a PID means you will meet this growing market expectation.
  • In the event of an animal disease outbreak or a contaminated food product, the provincial government can swiftly respond to incidents that could financially harm your business.
  • Having a PID enables you to participate in funding programs offered by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
How do I register my premises?

Registering for a PID is quick, easy and free. You can register and/or update your premises information online by visiting or by calling 1-855-MY-PPR-ID (1-855-697-7743).

2. Animal identification:

Since 2001, individual animal identification using a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag has been mandatory for cattle in Canada under the federal Health of Animals Act, enforced by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). A RFID number can be linked to any number of facts about an animal including: information about genetics, which animals were housed together, what they were fed, medications used and when they entered a herd. RFID tag numbers are essential for tracking marketable attributes and very useful for providing individual carcass information where available. In Ontario, some livestock operators are using RFID tag numbers as part of their traceability systems to help reduce the cost of operation and efficiently manage their herd.

3. Movement recording and reporting:

Recording and reporting movement and events of identified animals between identified premises allows traceability information to benefit the livestock industry as a whole. This reduces the time it takes to respond to an animal health event or possible food product contamination. Collected information can also be used to meet the growing information demands of consumers, enhance consumer confidence and increase the overall competitiveness of the industry.

A popular tool, used voluntarily by many in the livestock industry to record animal movements, is the Ontario Livestock Manifest. To learn more about the Ontario Livestock Manifest, call the Agricultural Information Contact Centre at 1-877-424-1300 or send an e-mail to

How can traceability improve your bottom line and protect the broader Ontario beef industry?

Traceability offers individual businesses, partnerships and value chains opportunities to improve their bottom line over time by leveraging the power of information to enhance operational efficiency, support product claims and access markets. Working together cow-calf, backgrounder and feedlot operators can share information that leads to more intentional genetic selection and the development of plans that get steers to market at the best time of the year. Whether you want to sell locally, or sell branded beef into one of Canada's many export markets, being able to back up your claims through whole chain traceability gives you credibility in these markets, enhances your competiveness and improves your bottom line.

As an industry, individual producers can take steps to improve on-farm traceability and movement reporting of animals to ensure the impacts of diseases and emergency incidents can be fully mitigated. Think of the industry level traceability system as a chain, with individual traceability systems forming the links. The industry's ability to efficiently and effectively manage incidents of diseases and emergencies is based on the reliability and accuracy of each link, and an efficient information collection and sharing system. In fact, the Ontario beef industry's protection from the impact of animal disease and emergency incidents is only as strong as your traceability system: a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

Traceability is a priority both from an emergency management perspective and as an opportunity to improve business performance. Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative, offers a range of project options for beef farmers who are considering a traceability project. The initiative offers 35 per cent cost sharing of up to $100,000 to implement traceability for your beef operation. There are also funding opportunities for traceability training, assessments, testing and planning. Funding is also available for as well as projects that use traceability to meet desired outcomes such as improved animal health management, increased automation and labour productivity, enhanced production efficiencies and financial management.

Interested in learning more about how traceability can strengthen your business? Take advantage of the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association's (OSCIA) free traceability workshops for producers. Register online today at or call 1-800-265-9751.

Upcoming workshop dates and locations for winter 2016:

January 22, January 29 at 10:00 am
Ridgetown, Ontario

January 27, February 3 at 10:00 am
Colborne, Ontario

February 24, March 2 at 10:00 am
OMAFRA Simcoe, Simcoe, Ontario

French - February 29, March 7 at 10:00 am
Sarsfield, Ontario

March 3, March 10 at 10:00 am
Spring Bay, Manitoulin, Ontario

March 17, March 24 at 10:00 am
Elora, Ontario

Putting a traceability tag on a beef cow

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300