**For Immediate Release**
First Year Research Results Available
by Laura Hays
- released by OPSU Campus Communications 01-23-2007
Goodwell, Okla. - In the fall of 2005, Oklahoma Panhandle State University was awarded an economic development grant from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education totaling over $116,000 to fund research for radio frequency identification (RFID) cattle tagging products. Dr. Peter Camfield, OPSU’s Dean of Agriculture, presented one-year research data last week at the Texas County Ag Expo. In addition to specific information gathered over the last year, he also examined the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed National Animal Identification System (NAIS).
The purpose of NAIS allows the expeditious tracking of animals raised for meat from birth to slaughter. Animal health officials would have the ability to respond quickly and effectively to an animal disease outbreak. In addition, the system would promote consumer confidence in both foreign and domestic markets. Producers could also use the system to keep their own statistics on individual animals to assist with herd management and selection.
The foundation of NAIS promotes premise identification, which is an effort to establish a complete record of all locations in the U.S. where livestock are raised or boarded including places such as farms, ranches, and sale barns. Each location is assigned a unique seven character string of numbers and letters that permits animal health officials to quickly locate the origin of any at-risk animals and implement a plan of action. The premise ID is incorporated in the individual animal tags.
The animal tags consist of a 15 digit number that is inserted in the ear before the livestock leave the operation where they were born, and each animal is tagged individually. Then, regardless of how many different facilities or owners the animal passes through, it would still be tagged with its place of origin, an important factor in tracking Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) and other diseases.
OPSU’s objective in researching RFID cattle tags is to accumulate data on the durability, reading ease, and cost-effectiveness of the tags as well as testing the readers. The study has used four different tags manufactured by three top companies and two types of electronic readers. From November of 2005 through November 2006, the research team has tagged 4,300 head of cattle all over Oklahoma. Each tag has been read approximately five times, so Camfield has 21,500 observations logged in a database so far.
Producers participating in the study have been identified according to size of their operation, and part of the research includes analyzing which type of tag and reader that might work best. For purposes of this research, small operators own less than 200 head while anything over 200 head is considered a large operation. The cattle used so far have been tagged in a variety of production phases including cow/calf, stocker, and feeder operations. This helps determine which phase produces the most lost or damaged tags and determining who will most likely have to absorb the extra cost of tag replacement. Another aspect of the research attempts to determine if some tags may be more suitable for different regions of the state.
The tags themselves range in price from $1.65-2.25 each. Camfield is using quarter-sized button tags, and most of them are compatible with universal ear taggers, with the exception of one that uses a special implement to insert the tags. The research includes the use of two different types of readers, with one of the criteria being that any reader must be able to read any tag.
After completing the first year of research, Camfield has concluded that producers can expect to replace approximately 1% of the RFID tags from birth to slaughter. No significant difference in performance in regard to tracking only has been recorded in any of the tags no matter what it cost. Both readers have faults, but both perform adequately and producers will need to choose a reader based on how their operation is run.
Canada and Australia have both already implemented a mandatory NAIS. While the program is currently strictly voluntary in the U.S., Camfield revealed that he believes the benefits out-weigh the cost of implementation because cattle that can be source verified may mean a premium for the producer. He also stated that RFID systems lend themselves well to record keeping and herd management.
Drawbacks to RFID tagging include cost of the tags plus the expense of the additional equipment needed to implement the program as well as the added processing time per head. In addition, producers must possess the technological ability to use the equipment and administer a database.
Much more information about the RFID research is available from Dr. Camfield. OPSU will offer training in proper use of RFID systems and will also help determine the product that best suits the needs of each operation. Anyone interested in learning more may telephone Camfield at 580-349-1514 or contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.