Reading Rate of Beef Cattle Radio Frequency Identification Tags - Frequently Asked Questions

 
 
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 Why has the cattle industry moved to radio frequency identification tags?
There is a burgeoning requirement in international and domestic markets for source and production practice verification and trace-back to validate food safety and quality. Well-publicized examples such as BSE in North America have resulted in the closure of markets resulting in billions of dollars of lost revenue. Key to an effective traceability system are Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) systems that work at the speed of commerce, are automatic and require little interference in animal movement to capture the RFID tag number. A system with these characteristics would greatly facilitate the rapid transfer of valuable management and production information from the farm to the feedlot, packer, processor and consumer.

How will the tags be read at the point of sale?
Alberta Agriculture beef researchers from the Lacombe Research Centre are testing two commercially available, multi-antenna RFID reader systems.

The Allflex Multi-Panel RFID Reader System consisted of four antenna panels housed in two laneways. Each laneway was 34 in. wide by 70 in. in height by 14 ft long.

The Digital Angel Multi-Panel RFID Readers System consisted of six antenna panels housed in one laneway that was 58 in. wide by 70 in. in height.

In preliminary trials, groups of 20-21 weaned calves (550-650 lb; 6-7 months of age) and 18-20 Aberdeen Angus cows (1300 lb, 4-8 years of age) from the Lacombe Research Centre were used. Each calf had a half duplex (HDX; Allflex USA) RFID button tag in its right ear, while each cow had a full duplex (FDX; Digital Angel, USA) RFID button tag in its right ear. These two animal groupings were used to form three tag-animal type groups: 20-21 calves with half duplex RFID tags (HDX); 18-20 cows with full duplex RFID tags (FDX); and 10 calves with half duplex RFID tags and 10 cows with full duplex RFID tags (50:50 MIX). The test consisted of running cattle from each tag-animal type grouping through each Multi-Panel RFID Reader system (Allflex; Digital Angel) 10 times on each of four test days. Total possible head opportunities through each RFID reader would be 2400 if all groups consisted of 20 animals (20 cattle x 10 replications x 3 tag-animal groups x 4 days).

What were the results and recommendations from these trials?
Cattle moved through the Allflex and Digital Angel systems at an average speed of 10.4 and 14.7 km/hr, respectively. The average read rate of the Allflex Two Lane and the Digital Angel One Lane Multi-Panel RFID Reader systems was 98.5% and 86.9 %, respectively. Two thousand two hundred and ninety animals in 115 lots were run through the two-lane system and 2400 cattle where run through the one lane system in 120 lots.

The Allflex Two Lane Multi-Panel RFID Reader System successfully read 99.9 % of the half duplex tags in 6 – 7 month old calves, 98.1 % of full duplex tags in cows and 97.5% of lots of cattle tagged with a 50:50 mix of half and full duplex tags (calves and cows). This system was recommended for more extensive testing at commercial auction market facilities.

The Digital Angel One Lane RFID Reader System successfully read 96.0 % of full duplex tags in cows, 77.7 % of half duplex tags in 6 – 7 month old calves and 88.1 % of lots of cattle tagged with a 50:50 mix of half and full duplex tags (cows and calves). This system is not recommended for more extensive testing at commercial auction market facilities until it is re-designed. The width of the laneway was 58 in, which frequently allowed two to three calves to pass the antenna at the same time. Narrowing the laneway to 34 in and having two lanes would improve the performance of the system.

The hardware and software interface between the RFID tag reader panels and computer terminal was lacking. An all-weather computer terminal with touch screen information entry and significant memory would improve the system further. In addition, much effort is required to build software programs that facilitate data gathering and analyses such as the real-time acquisition of birth certificates from the CCIA database.

AAFRD contributing team members:
Dr. John Basarab, Lorne Erickson, Dr. Juanita Kopp, Kelli Claypool, Don Milligan and Brad Smith.

FAQ prepared by Juanita Kopp
 
 
 
 
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This information published to the web on April 28, 2006.
Last Reviewed/Revised on April 24, 2008.