Cattle Reader Technology Enhances Traceability Initiative

CANADA - On September 18, 2006, nearly 60 industry participants, including Agriculture Minister Doug Horner, observed Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development researchers and industry partners demonstrating the use of a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) panel reader technology system for cattle.
calendar icon 12 October 2006
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The demonstration, at a commercial auction mart in Fort Macleod, showed radio frequency ear tagged cattle being identified by walking through detection panels. The identification information immediately flowed to the demonstration computer. The data was linked to the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency’s database, which instantly confirmed birth dates and calculated the maximum days before slaughter to qualify for sale in the Japan and United States markets.

“Identifying and developing traceability technology that meets the demands of the livestock industry is cost effective and does not impede commerce, and will enhance industry competitiveness,” says Rick Frederickson, senior manager, traceability initiatives with Alberta Agriculture. “We’re working with industry to develop traceability in all sectors of agriculture to enhance Alberta’s food safety and information systems.”

Currently in Alberta, an estimated two-million head of cattle are sold and moved from location to location on an annual basis – with many of these transactions still being recorded by hand. Effective cattle reader technology will allow the rapid transfer of valuable management and production information from the farm to the feedlot, packer, processor and consumer.

The initial phase of the project involved reading electronic tags in cattle moving through simulated auction mart lanes at the Lacombe Research Station. The current phase of the project has researchers testing RFID technology in select commercial auction marts. Once the project is finalized, a broader project is planned to implement cattle reader systems in participating auction marts throughout the province.

“This type of technology will assist us in the goal to make Alberta a global leader in age verification,” says Frederickson. “Age verification will help maintain and improve market access for Alberta beef – and is just one example of how a national traceability system will benefit cattle producers.”

To date, more than 2.5 million birth date records of cattle have been submitted to the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency’s age verification website.

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