How supply chain technology helped Denmark weather Mad Cow Disease

In 1986, cows in Britain started acting strangely. Some had trouble walking or getting up. Others acted unusually nervous or violent.

The cause, it turned out, was Mad Cow Disease. It was the first outbreak of its kind, and its rapid, mysterious appearance shook the global beef and dairy industries. Soon, countries began refusing to accept beef and dairy imports unless there was proof the products had not come from contaminated herds. For some producers, that was a tall, if not impossible, task.

Not for Denmark. In the 1950s, the Danish government partnered with IBM to create an innovative central cattle database now called the Central Husbandry Register. With guidance from IBM’s Soren P. Iversen, farmers across the country documented every single cow and then moved that data to IBM mainframe computers. By the 1980s, when the Mad Cow Disease outbreak emerged, every farm had a unique number and every animal had a unique ear tag. Danish industry, consequently, weathered the crisis smoothly.

Today, the beef and dairy industries face new challenges, and new demands for transparency and accountability. Again, IBM is lending a hand with groundbreaking technology to parties across the supply chain, from ranchers in Wyoming to processors in Alabama.

For the full story of how it all began, watch the video below:

Rethink your supply chain