RFID Eartag on Cattle
RFID Eartag on Cattle

High-tech eartags for livestock are one step closer to becoming a reality in Alberta.

The Ultra High Frequency (UHF) tags will be able to track animals through all stages of beef processing, starting from the producers field, to the auction markets, feedlots, and all the way through to the processors. The trial test is being doen to see the effectiveness of software and hardware that is used for the process also. Readers will be used to collect data, computer programs to to move and analyze data and systems will be used to integrate the information detected with the Livestock Identification Services (LIS) as well as with The Canadian Cattle Identification Agency Databases.

David Moss, the Chief Operating Officer at LIS said that this is more than just reading tags and according to him that is what makes the trial all the more realistic.

The trial has recieved a lot of support through funding. The Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA), LIS and Alberta Agriculture have given their support through large sums of funding. The testing is being led by students from Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT). In addition 1,200 heads from all sectors of the industry will be using UHF tags in a few weeks time.

The interesting part about the trial is that it has been made to be as live as possible so that results are very accurate. The trial has been set up in a full commercial setting, Moss said.

He hopes that by the end of the trial they have more confidence in it and can prove that the technology is useful and able to delivery all that was promised including high readablity and retention rates. The product must be ready for the market according to Moss.

Moss further stated that the current RFID technology has low readablity and is not in pace with the speed of commerce. In addition to that the current technology has issues relating to the costs of rentention of the system. He believes UHF tags will be able to battle such issues and due to the funding provided, this dream can be made into a reality.

When using UHF tags, unlike the regular tags, mutlple tags can be read in seconds. Each tag offers 65Kb of read/write data storage which is much higher than the current tags that are used. The tags will also be drastically cheaper if they are enacted.

A year ago, Moss approached the team at SAIT to ask if students from the Radio Frequency Lab at the institution could help apply UHF technology to the cattle industry. The students immediately started the project focusing on designs that were similar to the current RFID tags but with higher retention rates.

If the trial goes well and proves to be successful, the next hurdle Moss will be facing is trying to get approval from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). He foresees it being a tough to get an approval because the CFIA is usually very reluctant in considering new technologies but he is ready to provide a very compelling case which will make the CFIA think twice before making a final decision.

At the current time, Moss is putting all his energy into the trial and believes it is a great achievement that he has even come this far with the research into such technology. He is especially thankful to the students of SAIT who have made such a vision possible to even dwell upon.

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