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Can Cows Be Tracked Using Radio Frequency Identification?
I am a farmer with many cows. I would like to attach an RFID tag to each animal, so that I can see which paddock it is in at any given time, via Google Maps. Is this achievable, and what would the costs be?
The short answer is yes, though Google Maps is probably not the best way to go. You can buy ear tags for cows, which typically cost approximately $2 apiece. These tags use high-frequency (HF) transponders, which are relatively short-range. The easiest way to collect location information for specific cows would be to place RFID readers on either side of a chute, and to have the animals walk through that chute to get to a particular paddock. The tags would then be read, and the information could be forwarded to Google Maps. However, this would require extra integration with Google Maps.
There really isn't much need to do this. It would be easier to display which paddock the cows are in on a secure Web site of your own. The cost for such a system would depend on the number of cows (which would, in turn, determine how many tags are required) and the number of paddocks (which would indicate how many readers will be needed, at a cost of about $500 each).
You'll have to protect the readers from exposure, and run electricity lines to the devices in order to power them, if there isn't already power by the paddocks. You will need a way to get data from the interrogators to a server, which will mean either running Ethernet cable or utilizing Wi-Fi or cellular communications. And you will also require someone to perform installation and software integration.
When all is said and done, you are probably looking at upwards of $200,000, perhaps more.
I should mention that agriculture technology firm TekVet offers an active RFID cattle-tracking system that includes health monitoring and a Web site that displays details regarding an individual animal's history and health condition. The system employs active 418 MHz RFID tags, sensors that monitor an animal's internal temperature, and transceivers to transmit each tag's unique serial number, as well as the animal's temperature, to an Internet server. There, that tag's unique serial number is linked with that particular animal and its health record (see TekVet-IBM Cattle Tracker Uses Active RFID Tags, Satellite Communication). However, I am unaware of the system's cost.
—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal
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