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USDA Embarks on 18-Month UHF RFID Pilot for Tracking Cattle

The project, overseen by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, will test the ability of ranchers, veterinarians, feedlot operators and slaughterhouses to use UHF tags to track animals and their health data.
By Claire Swedberg

The company developed its UHF RFID ear tag over the course of several years, and launched a pilot in 2013 involving the tagging of 800,000 cattle in Brazil. HANA Micron has been interested in providing tags for animal tracking since 2008, Choi says. "The choice, at that time, was LF only. To us, that didn't make sense, efficiency-wise," he says, referring to the fact that LF RFID technology requires an individual to hold a tag within a few inches of that tag, and that the animal come to a stop. "We know what UHF can do." Therefore, the company developed passive EPC Gen 2 UHF tags for use on cattle in Brazil, and then began working with the animal health tracking agencies, as well as private cattle operators in South Korea, New Zealand and Australia. With UHF, Choi says, fewer staff members (or work hours) would be required, since they wouldn't need to stop in front of each animal to capture its ID number.

Although HANA Micron makes its own RFID readers for tracking livestock, for the U.S. market it is partnering with TSL to provide participants with the ability to collect data on their mobile phones. The TSL reader captures tag read data and forwards that information to a user's mobile phone via Bluetooth. Choi says the app can be used on Android phones or tablets, but in the future, it will be available for iOS devices as well. For the APHIS pilot, he adds, the technology will be used in three segments within the cattle industry.

For the first segment, the tags will be read at a ranch when calves are first tagged, and during vaccination and health certification, as well as for other health-care-related processes, such as weighing and feeding. During the second segment, the tags will again be interrogated as cattle are loaded and unloaded during the process of transporting the animals to feedlots via truck, as well as periodically as the cattle are fed or moved within the feedlot. For segment three, the tags would be read when animals are loaded for shipment to the slaughterhouse and, finally, at the slaughterhouse itself. The exact details regarding when the tags will be read, and for what purposes, will be the responsibility of each state's animal health office and individual operators.

In the case of the AniTrace system, data can be viewed on the app and be sent to a cloud-based server, or to a local server hosted by the feedlot, ranch or slaughterhouse's own local database. For the pilot, state animal health offices will manage the data on their own servers.

Each participant using the AniTrace solution or other UHF RFID technology will determine the system's efficiency and the ways in which it could be used, and create a report to be shared with the local animal health agency and APHIS. APHIS then intends to consolidate the results and publish the information in a report that will be made available to the industry, free of charge.

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