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Animal Tracking: Livestock Traceability via Tablet PC

Consumers are becoming more concerned about the origin of the foods they eat, and in some countries, livestock and animal products must be traceable back to their point of origin. Farmers also have a vested interest in keeping track of data on their animals. Livestock bloodlines, age, health records, and in some cases production are all important considerations for farmers.

Humans have been marking their livestock for as long as they have been keeping domesticated animals. However, until recently the technology used to keep track of animals has largely remained the same. Tattooing, visual ear tags, and low frequency ear tags have been around for decades. These low-tech methods of animal identification are sufficient for smaller farms with just a few head, but what about farms with larger herds?

Tattoos can be difficult to read on dark skinned animals, and can only be read from close range. They also tend to fade over time. In addition, the space on an animal’s ear is limited. There may not be room for important information such as vaccination records. Tattooing can potentially cause health problems for the animal, including infections or excessive bleeding if one of the large veins in the ear is punctured.

Visual ear tags are easier to read than tattoos, but reading and recording the information is still subject to human error.

Rugged Tablet PC for AgricultureLow frequency electronic tags eliminate the human errors from reading the tattoos or visual tags, but the equipment still has very short range. The worker must get close to the animal in order to scan the tag. Also, there is no way to change the information stored in the tag.

Once the animal’s ID number is read or scanned, the worker must write down the information on paper. Then the data must be keyed into a computer database later. All of these steps introduce the possibility for human error. With old animal ID systems, there is no way to keep an extensive record with the animal.

The newest revolution in animal tracking and traceability is the RFID tag. RFID tags are part of a digital tracking and information system. The tags are scanned by an RFID reader like the one that is built in to a MobileDemand Tablet PC. No more squinting at blurry tattoos or trying to guess the scratched and faded digits on a visual tag. No more writing down or keying in information. The data is transmitted wirelessly, or stored for uploading.

Rugged Tablet PC for AgricultureUnlike low frequency electronic tags, RFID tags can be scanned at greater distances, and the information in the tag can be updated as the animal ages. RFID tags also allow farmers to track their cattle using the RFID reader’s GPS capabilities, keeping track of which animals are in which field or pen for how long. The animal carries a copy of its own information at all times.

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