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Canadian Auction Markets Test RFID Readers

The Canadian Cattle Identification Agency hopes to determine whether RFID technology would provide more benefits than hindrances for Canadian cattle auctions.
By Claire Swedberg
Nov 05, 2009The Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA), a nonprofit industry-led group established to protect the safety and health of cattle and beef, is testing whether current RFID technology can provide reliable read rates without slowing the operations at cattle auction markets. CCIA's membership consists of trade organizations representing livestock producers and meat processors, as well as related organizations, including the Livestock Marketing Association of Canada (LMAC), which represents the interests of auction markets, and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the CCIA recommend that the Canadian cattle industry install RFID interrogators at all 250 of the nation's auction marketplaces by the end of 2011, according to Rick Wright, the chairman of the CCIA steering committee for the Auction Market Applied Research Project. Such a deployment, he says, would automate the tracking of each animal's arrival and departure. Before that can happen, however, the industry must be convinced the technology is ready.

CCIA's Rick Wright
The results of the Auction Market Applied Research Project testing will be made available to the public after February 2010.

CCIA will test RFID interrogators that can read 134.2 kHz passive RFID tags complying with the ISO 11784 and 11785 standards. Three vendors have provided readers for the study: Destron Fearing, Aleis International and Allflex USA. While several other vendors offer readers that could have been tested, Wright explains, the group chose only those three because they were able to provide support services, such as consulting assistance with the installations.

The study started in mid-September, when CCIA began equipping eight cattle auction markets across Canada this fall. The organization also brought in three auction markets to the project that already had interrogators in place, in order to test a variety of reader installations at small, midsize and large cattle auctions. Once the study is completed, in mid-December, CCIA hopes to be able to judge whether existing RFID technology offers adequate read rates, yields a reasonable cost-benefit ratio (that is, it offers users a return on investment within several years) and does not hamper operations by slowing down the movement of cattle. CCIA's staff will measure read rates, as well as determine which conditions read rates may increase or decrease. The staff will also measure the rate at which cattle travel through chutes, with and without the technology, thereby determining how much RFID readers may slow down the process.

To launch the program, the Livestock Marketing Association of Canada sent a request for participant volunteers to its members. The 11 selected represent multiple geographic areas (exposed to varying weather conditions) and multiple sizes of operation, as well as different kinds of cattle. The auction sites are located in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. The size ranges from sites that can accommodate 20,000 cattle to those with the capacity for more than 100,000.

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