Along with disease traceability and livestock management, a national system of individual animal identification, tied to title, could offer financial protection.

“If I have data, then I can evaluate my decisions. I wanted the data so that once I had paid my tuition in the business, I could use it and not have to keep paying tuition,” says Jay O’Brien of Amarillo, the 2013 National Beef Stocker Award winner.

“Knowing how a source’s cattle performed the last time I owned them enables me to buy better performing cattle.” He owns a ranch in Texas and manages others in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Colorado.