RFID Simplifies Livestock Tracking, Herd Management

US - An ear tag is one of the top ways to identify livestock, but after the number wears off, the piece of rubber is rendered useless.
calendar icon 9 August 2010
clock icon 2 minute read

Similarly, metal tags are often only visible in the handling pen. Obtaining the essential information from the hard-to-view tags can take significant time. Piles of papers then need to be looked through to coordinate the animal with the number before making individual management decisions.

During these hectic steps, miscommunication can cause mistakes to be made and money to be lost. Electronic tags hope to push this scenario into the history books.

With a livestock disease traceability system on the horizon, the Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium (WLIC) believes that electronic tags, also known as Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) tags, will be able to combine traceability with management in the top package.

The tags decrease the time and financial input in managing livestock, says Robert Fourdraine, WLIC Chief Operating Officer.

“RFID tags come equipped with a quarter-inch microchip that contains a unique number,” he says. “All you need to do is point the reader at the tag and it scans the number into a handheld PC or sends the information back to your computer.”

Because of the scanning process, livestock can be evaluated and worked with all in one step, reducing miscommunication and treatment mistakes while verifying an animal’s identification. Readers can also be attached to self-dispensing feeders to control swine’s feed intake and onto scales to record weight gains in the beef industry.

“We’ve seen the system used more and more in management schemes lately,” Mr Fourdraine says. “Right now, the biggest group adopting RFID technology is the dairy industry, but we have seen success in beef, sheep and swine also.”

Currently WLIC estimates that 20 to 25 per cent of the state’s dairy cattle are tracked with RFID technology.

“The tags have worked well for them [dairy producers], because they work with their animals everyday,” he says. “By scanning in the cow’s individual information, a system can record milk production, be used for vet checks to select animals and can enter breeding treatment records.”

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