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USDA Approves Implantable RFID Tag to Track Horses

The passive tag is now more aligned with international requirements for tracking animals, and is designed to help the agency's National Animal Identification System keep tabs on disease outbreaks.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 13, 2007The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved an implantable passive RFID chip for use in tracking horses and ponies for the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). The NAIS is a federal voluntary information system operated by the USDA to help track animals in the event of a disease outbreak.

The LifeChip, produced by Destron Fearing, a division of www.digitalangelcorp.com Digital Angel, is a passive 134.2 kHz RFID tag encased in glass. The size of a rice kernel, the tag is implanted just under the skin in a horse's neck.

Sue Brown
Each chip is encoded with a 15-digit unique identification number associated with data about the horse, such as the identity and location of its owner. This information is stored in the NAIS database. Destron Fearing also offers the Biothermal Sensor LifeChip, which includes a temperature sensor allowing horse owners to track the temperatures of their animals. An RFID reader captures the unique ID number on the Biothermal Sensor LifeChip and the temperature of the animal at the time of the reading.

Both versions of the LifeChip are compliant with ISO 11784 and 11785 animal tag standards and designed for use by equine breeders or trainers. To date, they are the only RFID transponders approved by the NAIS. The agency sought a transponder with a 15-digit number that began with the U.S. country code (840, as designated by ISO). Chips made previously do not contain the U.S. identifying number.

The tag should help bring the U.S. method of automatically tracking and identifying animals in line with international standards, because it employs the same frequency and 15-digit pattern utilized in the United Kingdom and most other European countries. The European Union mandates that all horses be assigned a 15-digit ID number, with the first three digits representing the country and the second three designating the breed.

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