Simplify Livestock Identification with Electronic Animal RFID Ear Tags
Updated: Oct 5
Trouble identifying your animals? Looking to streamline your livestock inspections?
Health checks, pregnancy checks, and vaccinations for your cattle, sheep, goats, pigs or other herd animals doesn't have to be so difficult. Utilizing radio frequencies and scanning devices you can quickly gather information about your animals.
Read on to learn how Electronic Identification Tags (EID) or RFID tags, can take the guess work out of animal inspections.
Quick and accurate identification of your livestock is critical. It can tell you which animal you have in front of you, animal history, genealogy and health. But using visual identification can have limitations. For instance, if all the animals look the same, or their visual identification is hard to see because of mud or dirt, it's hard if not impossible to tell them apart. If you use ear tags often the animal could lose its tag or if the tag gets very dirty the tags might be hard to see. Add to the challenge of trying to get all the information you took from the animals (on paper) recorded and in one place. Enter RFID tags.
What are Livestock RFID/EID Tags
RFID or EID tags are a way of tracking your cattle, sheep, pigs or other herd animals through scanning a tag with a wand or other device that reads the animals' unique identification number.
These tags have all the features of a visual ear tag, but combine it with the assurance of data integrity and traceability. Electronic tags can be not only be scanned, but can also be verified visually. Tags come in a few different types, most commonly HDX and FDX. HDX tags utilize 1/2 duplex technology which allows for reading at greater distanced are work well for automated systems (milk parlor, weighing machine, etc). FDX tags use a full duplex technology and are a more cost effective option.
The tag is small, round and goes on the ear. Once you've attached the tags to the animals you can then easily scan the tag during weight check ins, pregnancy or other health checks. In addition to being able to track an animal’s history RFID tags can helps you determine which ones are performing well and which ones need a little help or intervention. In addition to the EID tags, you'll want to invest in a good scanner that is designed to work with the tags you selected and supports capturing relevant data points.
Instead of manually recording data in a spreadsheet, information like weight can be saved from a scale and saved directly to your computer. This data can then be easily exported and synced to other systems for complete and accurate record keeping. This reduces user data entry errors and saves time in overall data entry.
Benefits of Using Livestock Electronic ID (EID) Tags
There are many advantages of using RFID tags in your agricultural operation. It lets you easily identify your animals. Second, it avoids some of the limitations of line of sight tags, tattoos or barcode scans where you need to visually see or are only able to scan one animal at a time. Instead, RFID tags do not require line-of-site, and multiple RFID tags can be detected remotely and read all at once.
The RFID tag usually lasts for the life of the animal. Frequency varies from company to company so check with the manufacturer on your tag transmissions and if a reader will also work together. It's important to note that you can use different tags with different readers if they are all ISO compliant.
Overall, using these types of livestock ear tags for cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and other livestock can make check in days more efficient (a less stressful) for you and for your animals. You can also find custom cattle ear tags and other custom animal ear tags if you want to customize the ear tags with your ranch name or a unique ID scheme.
Choosing an EID Stick Reader
EID stick readers, wands and panel readers can help you identify livestock quickly and accurately. Depending on the features of the reader they can be used to easily capture key health, location, growth and weight metrics. These reader typically work over wifi or Bluetooth.
There are a lot of different EID scanners, stick readers, wands and panels on the market. When a considering a reader some key features that you should consider are:
Key EID/RFID Scanner Features:
1) Ease of Use
The device should be comfortable to hold and be simple to use with clear controls and menus that are easy to navigate. There's nothing worse that fumbling with your scanner while a 1,500 lb animal is anxiously waiting in a head gate.
2) Scanning Feedback
Look for devices that provide clear alerts for scanned livestock, like a flash lights beeps or vibration.
Nothings worse than having to stop a weighing session because your scanner breaks. Look for a durable durable stick reader that has solid reviews and reliability ratings. Be sure to ensure the device has a waterproof rating, provides clear feedback on battery life and comes with a decent warranty.
4) Data Storage & Customization
Most stick readers are capable of storing tens of thousands of records and allow for the creation and storage of data in custom fields. Look for scanners that can capture the information you need and have enough storage to work across multiple sessions to allow extra time between syncing.
5) Export and Integrations
More than likely once you've captured all the data from your scanner you're going to want to sync it into your favorite livestock record keeping system. Most readers have the ability to sync data over wifi or bluetooth to your computer. Make sure you can easily export data from the scanner system in a format that is compatible with your farm management software. You don't want to be be stuck with a livestock record keeping or farm management software that doesn't meet your needs because of your stick reader.
There are a wide variety of EID scanners, stick readers, wands and panel readers on the market, so be sure to do your research:
Talk to other farmers to see what works for then
Consult your farm management software company for recommendations
Ask for demos from the device companies
See if you can take a device for a test drive
Integrating Livestock RFID/EID and Record Keeping Systems
Most RFID scanner will allow you to quickly and easily scan and record key information about your livestock (weight, height, BCS, etc), but what do you do with this data? Almost all RFID scanners allow you to export the data from their system as a CSV (comma separated file). Some scanners allow syncing to farm management systems via bluetooth. Bluetooth connections are sometimes prone to issues, especially in highly dynamic and remote areas like a barn or paddock. We recommend in order to reduce any potential issues with data syncing between your device and farm management software be sure the device also supports CSV exports. By exporting this data you can easily import updated livestock health and measurement data into your favorite livestock record keeping system.
If you need help keeping track of your cattle, sheep, goats or other livestock, give Farmbrite a try. You can easily upload and import your livestock RFID scans to Farmbrite and streamline the recording of key livestock details without having to manually enter it.