FEBRUARY 20, 2009

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OPSU Cattle Tagging Research Complete

In the fall of 2005, Oklahoma Panhandle State University was awarded an economic development grant from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education to fund research for radio frequency identification (RFID) cattle tagging products. The $116,400 grant was used to compare tags from the top three radio frequency tag manufacturers and the top two brands of electronic readers.

The research is important as the United States moves towards a National Animal Identification (NAID) system that will track individual animals from birth to death. The benefits of NAID include quick response to disease outbreaks, preventing disease, and maintaining domestic and foreign consumer confidence in the meat animal industry. The system will establish records of all locations that livestock passes through in every stage of life. Locations will be assigned a unique seven character identification number and individual animals will be assigned a fifteen digit number before they leave the place of their birth. The uniform numbering system will quickly link the livestock to the premise of origin, allowing quick response in the event of disease outbreak.

Over the length of the trial, the OPSU research team tagged 8,500 head of beef cattle in both large and small operations to determine the cost effectiveness as well as testing the tags in different geographic regions throughout Oklahoma and tracking the tagged livestock through all production stages. With 42,500 observations (averaging about 5 readings per head), the data shows that on average, less than 1% of the animals lost their ear tag throughout the life of the animal regardless of which tag was used. One of the biggest concerns during the trial was the instance of ear abscesses caused by the tags. Throughout the period, the team recorded a 2-4% incidence of abscesses. The cattle were treated, and the tag was removed and replaced by another in the opposite ear, which slowed down processing time and increased the overall cost of the tagging program.

The research showed no difference among the three tags that were used, but did discover a difference in the readers, especially in the ability to store data in the reader itself. The battery-operated reader could store up to 5,000 data points, while the Bluetooth-enabled reader was only able to store data directly to the computer required to store it. The Bluetooth reader required a direct line-of-sight to the computer in order to operate correctly. The main concern throughout the trial was the overall cost of implementing, maintaining, and learning about the technology. The research did demonstrate that RFID technology could potentially benefit both large and small Oklahoma producers by allowing them to track all their animals and utilizing different marketing strategies. Ultimately, the ability to verify each animal’s source could increase their value.

More information about the RFID research is available from Dr. Peter Camfield, OPSU’s Dean of the School of Agriculture. OPSU can offer training in proper use of RFID systems and can also help producers determine the product best suited to the needs of each operation. Telephone Camfield at 580-349-1514 or contact him via email at pcamfield@opsu.edu.