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Uruguay's RFID-Based Beef-Tracking Program Tags 2 Million

The nation, one of the world's leading beef exporters, hopes to have all 12 million of its cattle tagged by 2012, though the initiative faces some challenges.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 25, 2008In September 2006, Uruguay launched a mandatory program, overseen by the country's Ministry of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries (MGAP), to require that all of its 12 million cattle be tracked with RFID tags as the animals pass from "cradle to fork." The RFID system will be used in conjunction with an Internet-based computerized database chronicling the animals and their locations throughout their lives in Uruguay. Thus far, farmers have tagged 2 million animals as part of a pilot on some of the nation's largest farms; the government hopes to have all of the country's cows tagged by 2012.

Uruguay is one of the world's leading beef exporters, shipping live cattle and beef to Japan, Europe, the United States and other areas. Cattle are currently tracked by tattoos on the animals' hides, but for more than a decade, the nation has been seeking a method to provide an electronic method that would help it track and limit the outbreak of diseases, by providing a record detailing everywhere each animal has been.


Participants in Uruguay's cattle-tracking pilot are using Psion Teklogix PDAs with Agrident RFID readers to identify cattle as they move from one location to another.

The initiative will make Uruguay the first nation with full cattle traceability, according to Antonio Pietravallo, CEO of Cybercampo SA, based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Cybercampo is providing its iCampo software suite to manage data collected from RFID interrogators for the nationwide system. Boreal Technologies, also based in Buenos Aires, is providing hardware integration.

Piloting began with large-scale farms in late 2006. At those sites, a few farmers—but mostly auditors working for the government—are employing Psion Teklogix Workabout Pro PDAs with Agrident AIR 200 RFID interrogators to track cattle as they move from one location to another. The animals are being fitted with 134.2 kHz button ear tags, complying with the ISO 11784 and 11785 standards, provided by such companies as Allflex and Rumitag.

When the pilot is completed in July of this year, says Fabian Audisio, Psion Teklogix's business development manager, the government plans to begin rolling out the system with the first group of farms expected to comply—composed of larger farms, including those taking part in the pilot. Participating farms will need to tag only their new calves. Smaller farms, some with only 10 head of cattle or less, will be the last required to tag their animals.

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