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Intelleflex Demos Long-Distance Cattle Tags

At the Calgary Stockyards, the systems provider showed that its battery-assisted passive RFID ear tags could be read on roaming animals inside a 30-by-15-foot auction ring.
By Beth Bacheldor
"There can be as many as 4,000 to 6,000 cattle auctioned off every day at an auction house," Smith explains. "The cattle come in on trucks, are loaded into lanes where six to eight head of cattle across are streaming down these lanes into a [gated] area behind the auction yard. In order to read traditional RFID tags on cattle, the cattle need to be narrowed down and corralled individually to read a tag. There's no way to read six to eight head of cattle across a 16-foot lane, and you definitely can't read those cattle moving at about 8 to 12 miles per hour in a lane. You have to narrow them down to one at a time, and slow them down to get a read. That is not what you call operating at the speed of commerce. In fact, it makes for a very long day to auction off 6,000 cattle."

The difficulty associated with using traditional RFID animal tags at such places at auction houses has stymied the technology's adoption, says David Moss, chief operating officer at Livestock Identification Services (LIS), a not-for-profit, industry-owned agency that provides inspection services to livestock producers in Alberta, Canada. "To get traceability, you need to read each and every animal, and with the low-frequency RFID that's typically used, it slows everything down," says Moss, who attended the Intelleflex demonstration. "When you make something hard to do, it makes it difficult for people to buy into the process. The Intelleflex system gives us that individual animal read, without interfering with commerce."

The demonstration provided Intelleflex the opportunity to present its technology; several agencies and private companies attended, including LIS and Alberta Agriculture and Food. Now, Intelleflex is applying for research and development funding from several agencies in Canada to move the technology from proof-of-concept to production-ready status.

A recent report by British research and analysis firm IDTechEx predicts that the food market (including the tagging of farm animals and the tracking of fresh produce through the supply chain) will rank as the largest RFID market by 2017 (see Food and Livestock Tagging Expected to See Bumper Gains). The consultancy notes that Asian countries are developing methods to identify animals by means of high-frequency (HF) tags, which offer a 50 to 400 percent greater read range than LF tags.

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