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RFID in Livestock

One of the earliest applications of RFID has been in animal tracking. Since livestock assets are constantly on the move, traditional methods of identification and data collection have proven quite inefficient, especially in the case of large herds. RFID overcomes the shortcomings of manual tracking by being fast and accurate without requiring a visual or line of sight reading. Since radio signals harmlessly penetrate body tissue and most other materials, RFID tags can be safely attached or even implanted inside livestock and will last for the entire lifetime of the animal.

RFID therefore enables the recording and tracking of individual animals over their entire lifecycle, even in a herd of thousands. Since each RFID tag is unique, a livestock database that keeps track of the animal’s origin, parentage and breed can be easily created. Continued tagging over generations of livestock creates a genetic history that helps establish lineage, maintain quality of stock and improve breeds. Each database can be integrated into a regional or national animal ID system that records nationwide animal location, ownership and trade, creating a ready reference for farm owners, breeders and health officials.

In a scenario where there is nationwide and cross-border trade in livestock and food products, accurate tracking and record keeping is of utmost importance, especially since livestock diseases can quickly infect large areas, wipe out whole herds and spread globally. RFID usage helps monitor health of the herd, keep individual medication and vaccination records, and prevent the spread of disease by tracking and segregating infected livestock at early stages, leading to successful isolation and treatment that saves the rest of the herd.

Livestock tagging using RFID allows the storage of information on each animal pertaining to breeding data, feeding data and yield data. Milking and egglaying records are easily maintained, enabling categorization, individual corrective action or group improvement. RFID helps improve farm management through increased efficiencies, reduced feed and labour costs, enhanced output and improved herd health.

RFID tagging provides cross-referencing with packaging of end products such as milk, eggs and meat. An RFID based national ID system can track the source of end products, which can now be easily identified, traced and recalled if required.

Already being widely used in the livestock industry, RFID is proving its worth, with more uses than previously realized as it becomes deployed across the entire food chain. As the world grapples with the threat from disease to a global supply chain, more and more retailers are mandating the use of RFID on incoming food stocks, along with increasing legislation calling for RFID tagging on livestock. With a variety of proven benefits accruing from the use of RFID, it is only a matter of time before RFID tagging in livestock becomes a regular part of modern farm management.
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