He and his wife Donna raise purebred Wagyu beef cattle on their 100-acre farm located in the southwest corner of the province, approximately 186 kilometers west of the capital city, Toronto.
The Prior's herd which consists of 45 cows, 18 bred heifers, and 20-plus finishing animals is managed as a grass-fed operation. Cattle are rotated daily to new pasture to optimize animal performance and pasture health. Calves are marketed as yearlings for beef to restaurants in the Toronto area or sold via private treaty or auction.
To keep track of this bovine menagerie, Prior uses the Gallagher Livestock Manager TSi2 weighing system and a handheld EID tag reader (also referred to as a wand) to maintain detailed records on vital information such as weights and any medications given.
"It's our protocol when a calf is born to tag it with an EID (electronic ID) tag," says Prior. "You pull the trigger on the wand against the EID tag. It reads the tag and then sends a Bluetooth signal through the air to the Gallagher TSi2. Then the number goes in the machine and from there I can put in management numbers."
Prior uses a combination "number-letter" system to assign management numbers to his calves. The number corresponds to the cow's number and the letter for the year the calf was born. For example, for a calf born to Cow #2 in 2015 which is designated by the letter "C," the management number would be "2C."
Over the course of each calf's life the management number associated with its EID tag partnered with the information collected by the Livestock Manager TSi2 allow Prior to keep track of weights at birth and weaning, and during finishing, as well as determine average daily gains for animals over time.
"The more information I have the better management decisions I can make," says Prior.
These might be things like determining which cattle to cull that are not meeting production goals or deciding whether or not an animal is ready for market.
Along with running his own farm, Prior has also been a Gallagher dealer for the past 30 years. His farm and feed supply business,
Brussels Agri Services Ltd.
, sits only a short drive up the road from his farm which doubles as a demo site to showcase how Gallagher products function in their "working clothes" for customers.
In Prior's home country of Canada, Gallagher's high-tech weighing and EID system has lent itself particularly well to the country's livestock traceability policies. In 1998, Canadian livestock producers began establishing protocols for a nationwide traceability system.
The program, which became incorporated in 2001, is based on three pillars: animal identification, premises identification, and recording and reporting of animal movement. The traceability protocols have yet to become fully mandatory, however individual animal identification such as EID tags are required. Registering for a premise ID is only voluntary. Ontario's Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs notes federal regulations dictating records and reporting on livestock movement will become a reality in the near future.
To assist in making this transition to traceability, Ontario's government offered financial assistance to producers through the Livestock Option Traceability Initiative from 2011 to 2014. Funds were used to help livestock owners, specifically feedlots, to purchase equipment to become compliant with new traceability protocols and enhance record keeping capabilities on-site.
During this time, Prior assisted people to fill out the necessary paperwork to apply for this initiative and helped many Ontario producers get set up with their own Gallagher weighing systems and EID readers.
"We did a couple demonstrations with the government to show them some of the things we have been able to make it (the weigh system) do," says Prior. "Nowadays, there is not a lot of government funding out there, at least in Ontario. But what we are finding is those who come to us now are really looking for traceability."
Keeping track of livestock, whether on the farm or on a national level, can be challenging, but Prior believes with the right tools it is possible. Using technology like Gallagher's Livestock Manager TSi2 and EID handheld tag reader makes this task easier, helping producers to simultaneously make better management decisions for their operations and reduce risk of potential animal disease threats on a national scale.
Authored by Jesse Bussard a agricultural writer based in Bozeman, Montana.