RFID Tags: Benefits Beyond Traceability – for Aug. 16, 2010

Reading Time: 2 minutes

alberta farmer |vermilion

Harder to get started. Easier once you do. That sums up Ronald den Broeder’s views on radio frequency identification (RFID) for sheep.

He’s been part of a lamb traceability pilot project, and demonstrated the RFID tag scanning and his electronic sorting system to producers at a traceability information session at Lakeland College.

RFID tags will be mandatory for all sheep producers in Canada by January 2012, as required by the Canadian Sheep Identification Program.

RFID tags are easy to read and reduce time needed to accomplish some tasks, said den Broeder, who has adopted the system for his flock of 900 ewes near Barrhead.

However, he said there are some disadvantages. Installing the tags is time consuming and setting them up properly requires a lot of effort. In addition, each sheep and its medications have to be added to the database. Once that has been done, the work becomes a lot easier, he said.

The system has a high startup cost. Den Broeder said one of the challenges is finding appropriate equipment and making sure that all the components of the system can communicate with each other. To his knowledge, Shearwell is the only company that produces the complete set of electronic equipment used in all components of sheep production.

Den Broeder says he has seen many positive things through his work and experimentation with the RFID system. It has improved his traceability on-farm, and has provided him with documents that he can use to provide to regulatory bodies if a problem occurs. Traceability has allowed him to keep more accurate records to guide and improve his management practices.

A software program helps producers to back up the data through a number of different systems, ensuring that the data will not be lost.

“It’s very important to back it up and I can’t emphasize that enough,” said den Broeder.

He uses a hand-held reader to scan the tags and a laptop to collect his data. Once an RFID tag is scanned, the reader will display all the previous information collected about the animal wearing the tag. The RFID reader and an electronic scale unit can also be used to sort the animals by weight or group.

Using a database enables the producer to pull various sets of data to track them over time. The information can also be used to place animals into different management groups. Producers can also create and maintain slaughter reports based on information pulled from the abattoirs.

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It’sveryimportant tobackitupandI can’temphasizethat enough”

Ronald den Broeder

rfid traceability project

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Kienlen

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, Alexis is also the author of two collections of poetry, a biography, and a novel called "Mad Cow."

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