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RFID Survey

The chart below represents the U.S. cattle industry's most comprehensive compilation of the who, what and wherefore of individual electronic animal identification (ID). The chart is the result of a painstaking survey conducted by Dale Blasi of Kansas State University as an aid to U.S. beef producers and the industry as it wrestles with a move toward a national animal identification plan.

The survey is a compilation of information provided by a total of 25 firms. Some deal in hardware — equipment such as tags, readers, scale heads, etc. Others deal primarily in the software that allows the accumulation and storage of the data collected by hardware, or a combination of both.

And still others are full-service providers that offer a one-stop shop of hardware, software and data storage.

The companies represented in the chart were asked to provide detailed information to an extensive survey developed by Blasi with input from BEEF magazine editorial staff. But this chart is barely the tip of the information iceberg, so to speak.

At www.beefstockerusa.org, a cooperative Web site venture between Kansas State University and BEEF magazine, you'll find an interactive version of this chart. That version offers a multitude of fields, details and specifications on each of the categories listed in this printed chart.

You'll find background on the companies, contact info and Web site links, their partners, goals and mission, detailed explanations of their offerings and specifications for use, compatible equipment, fees, and much more. Altogether, it's the most comprehensive effort ever done to help producers learn about what's available, and to compare and contrast the various offerings in assembling their individual ID strategies.

RFID Survey For more information, go to www.beefstockerusa.org
Company Tags Handheld Stationary Scale Head Software Data Storage
AgInfoLink USA
www.aginfolink.com
Longmont, CO
303-682-9898
NO YES NO NO YES YES
Allflex USA
www.allflexusa.com
Dallas Ft. Worth Airport, TX
800-989-TAGS
YES YES YES NO NO NO
APEIS Corp
www.apeis.com
Norfolk, NE
402-379-9487
NO NO NO NO YES YES
Cow/Tek, Inc.
www.cowtek.com
Brule, NE
866-444-6661
YES YES YES NO YES YES
Digi-Star
www.digi-star.com
Fort Atkinson, WI
800-225-7695
NO NO NO YES YES NO
Digital Angel Corporation
www.digitalangelcorp.com
South St. Paul, MN
800-328-0118
YES YES YES NO YES NO
eMerge Interactive
www.emergeinteractive.com
Sebastian, FL
877-578-BEEF
NO NO NO NO YES YES
EZ-ID, LLC Animal Identification
www.ezidavid.com
Greeley, CO
877-330-3943
YES YES YES NO NO NO
Farnam Companies, Inc.
www.farnam.com
Phoenix, AZ
800-234-2269
YES NO NO NO NO NO
Gallagher Power Fence, Inc.
www.gallagherusa.com
North Kansas City, MO
800-531-5908
NO NO NO YES YES NO
Global Animal Management, Inc.
www.mygamonline.com
Union, NJ
800-235-9824
NO NO NO NO YES YES
I.D. ology
www.id-ology.com
Eau Claire, WI
800-395-5585
YES YES YES NO YES NO
Idlogic
www.idlogic.com
Chibougamau, Québec, Canada
418-748-4976
NO YES NO NO NO NO
IMI Inc.
www.imiglobal.com
Platte City, MO
888-343-4796
NO NO NO NO YES YES
Kaniwi Korrals Ltd
www.kaniwi.ab.ca
Granum, Alberta, Canada
403-687-2512
NO NO NO YES NO NO
Micro Beef Technologies, Ltd.
www.microbeef.com
Amarillo, TX
800-858-4330
NO NO NO NO YES YES
Midwest MicroSystems LLC
www.midwestmicro.com
Lincoln, NE
402-323-6969
NO NO NO NO YES YES
Red Wing Software
www.redwingsoftware.com
Red Wing, MN
800-732-9464
NO NO NO NO YES NO
Reliable Scale Corp.
www.reliablescale.com
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
800-419-1189
NO NO NO YES NO NO
SFK Technology, Inc.
www.sfktech.com
Denmark
+45 4450 3700
YES NO YES NO NO NO
ScoringSystem, Inc.
www.scoringsystem.info
Sarasota, FL
877-684-0018
NO NO NO NO YES YES
Temple Tag, Ltd.
www.templetag.com
Temple, TX
800-433-3112
YES YES YES NO NO NO
VeriLogik, Inc.
www.verilogik.com
www.primatechusa.com
San Antonio, TX
210-767.8878
YES YES NO NO NO YES
Y-TEX Corporation
www.y-tex.com
Cody, WY
888-600-YTEX
YES YES YES NO YES NO
Zeitlow Distributing Company
www.zeitlow.com
McPherson, KS
800-364-1605
800-530-5158 Missouri Office
YES YES YES YES NO NO

USAHA Okays Mandatory Plan

The U.S. Animal Health Association (USAHA) Livestock Identification (ID) Committee approved the concept of a national mandatory livestock ID system.

A National Identification Development Team made up of state animal health officials, livestock industry groups and the federal government has worked for more than a year to develop a comprehensive ID plan.

John Wortman, Las Cruces, NM, is chairman of the committee. He says, “It looks like the industry will move forward with Phase One of the plan which will establish livestock production Premises ID by July 2004.”

Wortman is uneasy, however, that individual states may not be able to design ID systems tailored to fit their geography and production practices.

“‘Brand’ states like New Mexico are in a different situation with regard to animal tracking and proving ownership,” he explains. “We hope all states will have some leeway in developing their own ID systems.”

The plan proposes that standardized premises ID numbers be established for all livestock operations, market facilities, assembly points, exhibitions and processing plants.

“Livestock” includes beef and dairy cattle, bison, horses, swine, sheep, goats, alpacas, llamas, deer, elk, poultry and aquaculture production.

The plan calls for individual ID of cattle, swine and small ruminants destined for interstate movement by February 2005.

Other food animal species would be required to be identified with unique, individual group or lot numbers, depending on species, by July 2006.

Detailed plan information is available at www.usaip.info.

Glossary of electronic animal identification terms

Active tags — Electronic identification tags that use batteries as a partial or complete source of power to transmit the data structure. Normally used in wildlife/endangered species research. (See definition for “passive tags” listed below.)

Antenna — The antenna is the part of the reader/interrogator that radiates the radio frequency energy to, and receives energy from, the transponder.

Alphanumeric — Data comprised of both alphabetical and numeric characters. For example, the data sequence B143F6 represents an alphanumeric string. Often, this term includes other printable characters such as punctuation marks.

Anti-collision (Anti-contention) — A term describing an RFID system's capacity for avoiding conflict at the reader/interrogator for responses arising from transponders simultaneously present within the read/interrogation zone and competing for attention at the same time.

Binary (Bin) — A number in binary code that is always written in groups of four bits, each group represents one digit of the number. For example, 0011 1000 is 38.

Bit — An abbreviation for binary digit. A single element (0,1) in a binary number. ISO standard 11784 details the data structure or bit pattern of data placed on electronic transponders. The numeric structure is arranged on 64 bits that is divided into three primary data fields.

Byte — Eight bits of data

Biometrics — Measurement or observation of a feature or action of an animal such as iris or retinal patterns or DNA for the purposes of uniquely identifying the animal.

Capture field — The region of the electromagnetic field generated by the antenna in which transponders will operate.

Chip — The electronic chip consists of an integrated circuit and a capacitor that is attached to two ends of a coil.

Coil — That component of the electronic chip which consists of very thin wire winded 500 to 1000 times into a loop that has a diameter of 20 to 30 mm.

Collision — A term used to denote an event when two or more transponders are competing for attention from the reader/interrogator at the same time. As a result, data confusion to the interrogator may cause misreading.

Data — Representations — in the form of numbers and characters, for example — to which meaning may be ascribed.

Data accumulator — Any device (be it wired or wireless) such as a laptop or handheld computer or scale head that is capable of accepting data from the reader.

eID — Electronic identification, for example - by line of sight using light (bar code) or radio frequency transmission.

eTag — An animal identification device that contains an electronic chip. Also referred to as a transponder.

Frequency — The number of cycles a periodic signal executes in unit time. Usually expressed in Hertz (cycles/second) or appropriate weighted units such as kilohertz (kHz), Megahertz (MHz) and Gigahertz (GHz).

Full duplex (FDX) — A design principle whereby the return signal initiates as soon as the beginning of the interrogation signal is received and the smoothing capacitor in the transponder has been charged. The return signal is received repetitively and without interruption for as long as a continuous interrogation signal is maintained. An FDX transponder doesn't have to store energy to be able to return its entire data content.

Half duplex (HDX) — A design principle whereby the transponder initiates the return signal to the reader/scanner/interrogator only after the end of the interrogation signal has been received and only after the storage capacitor has been fully charged in the transponder. The return signal is then only sent once, since the transponder has emptied its storage capacitor after it has sent its entire data content.

Herd of origin — Herd of birth

Inductive coupling — Systems that use the inducing of a current into a coil as a means of transferring data or power are said to use inductive coupling.

Information — Something that is meaningful. For example, data may be regarded as information once its meaning is revealed.

Interface — An electrical or physical standard for the interconnection of devices. Some common interfaces include RS232, RS422 or RS485.

Interference — Unwanted electrical signals found in the operating environment of RFID equipment that interfere with the transponder's or reader's normal operation. Obviously, the effect of interference can be seen in reduced system performance.

Interrogator — A fixed or mobile data capture and identification device using a radio frequency electromagnetic field to stimulate and create a coordinated data response from a transponder. Often used as an alternative term to reader, transceiver or scanner.

ISO — International Organization for Standardization (www.iso.ch)

ISO 11784 — This international standard represents the definition of the data numeric architecture of the 64-bit (character) code for electronic animal identification.

ISO 11785 — This international standard describes the accepted protocol for transmission between the reader/scanner/interrogator and the transponder (tag). The standard consists of two transmission protocols, half duplex (HDX) and full duplex (FDX).

Manufacturer/Country Code — Three-digit code defined by ISO 11784 standard. If country codes are used, ISO 3166 standard is used (USA country code is 840).

Memory modules — Refers to the means of storing data content within the transponder. A variety of random access (RAM), read-only (ROM), write once-read many (WORM) and read/write (RW) memory devices may be noted.

National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA; www.animalagriculture.org) — NIAA is a new name in animal agriculture, but carries a strong legacy of providing the U.S. livestock industry with a forum to collectively address issues of common interest. The new organization, successor to the Livestock Conservation Institute (LCI), is the result of a progressive process and vision that began in 1996 when LCI's board of directors commissioned a long-range planning team to landscape an organization that would best serve animal agriculture in the 21st century.

Noise disturbance — A cause normally attributed to low data capture around heavily industrialized areas such as packing plant facilities and feedlot processing areas. In such areas, extraneous electromagnetic interference from inflorescence lights and other devices emit conflicting signals from other competing devices.

Noise immunity — An indication of the robustness of a system to operate in the presence of noise disturbance.

Orientation — The alignment of a transponder with respect to the reader antenna.

OTP — One-time programmable — Specific chip design where the device manufacturer programs the contents of the electronic chip. This design is normally done to correlate the electronic identification number with the visual identification number.

Passive tags — In order to transmit tag data content, the reader/scanner/interrogator must “excite” the transponder at a specific radio frequency. RFID tags that rely upon the energy generated from the magnetic field induced by the reader/scanner/interrogator in order to transmit tag data content. (See definition for “active tags” listed above.)

Process verification — The ability to verify whether an animal has received a specific product (such as a vaccine) or procedure (defined set period of weaning) as claimed by the seller.

Range — The distance at which consistent, successful reading and/or writing can be accomplished between the transponder and the reader/interrogator.

Read distance — Refers to the distance between the transponder and the reader antenna. The distance will be affected by the power available to the reader, the power available within the tag to respond and electromagnetic interference.

RFID (radio frequency identification) — Any electronic identification system comprised of a reader/scanner/interrogator and a transponder that can read or write data content using a specified radio frequency.

Reader (interrogator) — The device in a radio frequency system that contains the digital electronics that trigger the transponder to respond, and extracts and validates the information from the transponder's response. (See also interrogator, scanner or transceiver.)

Read only (R/O) — Specific chip design whereby the chip has information written into it during its manufacture. This information can only be read from the tag and can never be changed.

Read/write (R/W) — Specific chip design whereby data can be freely read or written to a transponder using a suitable programming reader.

RS232 — A common physical interface standard for the interconnection of devices. The standard allows for a single device to be connected at baud rates up to 9600 bps, at distances up to 15 meters.

RS422 — An interface standard similar to RS232 except that differential voltages across twisted pair cables are used. This standard is more noise immune than RS232 and is often used to connect single or multiple devices to a data accumulator at distances up to 3,000 meters.

Source verification — The ability to verify the source of animal as claimed by the owner or seller.

Transceiver — The reader/scanner/interrogator device that is used to interrogate/read a transponder.

Transponder — A reference to a radio-frequency identification tag that combines the technical terminology of transmitter (trans) and responder (ponder). The transponder becomes activated when placed inside a magnetic field generated by an antenna. The induced current in the coil in turn charges the capacitor located inside the chip. Depending upon the transfer protocol, the chip transmits its identification code (and attached information if R/W).

Wedge — Software that converts data from a scanner or interrogator into a format that a computer application can use, typically by making scanned data appear as though it were keypunched in.

Write once read many (WORM) — Specific chip design whereby a transponder can be part or totally programmed initially by the user and only read thereafter.

Electronic ID: A User's Manual

Mandatory. Few words can match the word's ability to trigger in folks such stiff-legged, braced defiance. That's particularly true when you refer to a demographic like U.S. beef producers, a group that always has defended vigorously its independence.

The realities of today's life in a global world, however, are that everyone is being forced to surrender some independence. It's increasingly becoming the price of doing business in a modern world so compressed by the speed of transportation and a swelling volume of trade that practically no corner of the world is more than a few hours away from the potential for a devastating animal disease outbreak.

It's with the intent of more quickly responding to such situations that scores of industry representatives from all segments of the industry gathered to develop an action plan. The plan calls for a mandatory system of animal identification (ID), using radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology, to allow traceback on any animal within 48 hours of a disease outbreak.

Is Such A System Needed?

One need only look at the United Kingdom and the double whammy it absorbed via outbreaks of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the 1980s and foot-and-mouth disease in the 1990s. A more recent lesson, both in time and proximity, is the devastation wrought on the Canadian beef industry by just a single case of BSE in an Alberta cow last May.

Like it or not, and many producers don't, while most folks are ambivalent but anxious about its cost in time and dollars, such a mandatory system will happen in the U.S. Currently, USDA officially says it's not promoting a mandatory program of livestock ID. But with the 48-hour traceback goal the agency seeks, it's a mile-wide stretch of the imagination to believe the program won't be mandatory in the end.

A Look At RFID

This issue of BEEF is dedicated solely to examining RFID, the technology that appears to have the inside track to become the foundation of such a traceback system. Inside, you'll find articles detailing the technology, its providers, the specifications, the workings of the system, some hints at structuring a system for your individual operation and the RFID experiences of some of your industry counterparts.

The issue's centerpiece is the result of an exclusive survey (p. 10) of the firms dealing in the nuts and bolts of the RFID business. However, to get the full value of this survey conducted by Dale Blasi, Kansas State University Extension beef specialist, one needs to access the entire interactive table available at www.beefstockerusa.org. That's where you'll find a wealth of detail on the companies, the equipment they offer, as well as costs, specifications, etc.

This December issue of BEEF is designed to add to the industry awareness of animal traceback in general, and RFID technology specifically. It's a fairly certain bet that a mandatory program is coming. Now's the time to learn about the program so that, when it does come, you can make it work for you.