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The Rundown of RFID

Updated: Oct 28, 2020

Think back to the days when 20,000 people could gather in one location for a competition. Events such as the Los Angeles Marathon annually cast those 20,000 plus individuals against one another for the ultimate task of seeing who could race the fastest. Past event organizers were charged with accurately recording race times for both the racer looking to break their personal record and the racer looking to break world records. With so many racers passing through singular points at a time, the organizers needed a different technology then what they had used in the past. They turned to a simple plastic tag, inserted at the top of the racer’s shoelaces, which utilized Radio-frequency identification (RFID). These tags resulted in accuracy rates up to 99 percent.

Radio-frequency identification is a technology which captures data from labels or tags by a reader via radio waves. Unlike a barcode you could find on retail products like grocery items, an RFID tag system is unique because a tag can be read outside of the line-of-sight, and in the case of ultra-high frequency technology (UHF), the system can read multiple tags at a time like the runners at the L.A. Marathon. You’ve most likely seen RFID at work in your daily life. Whether it be an RFID tag on your vehicle that allows you to pass through a highway toll without stopping to pay, a MagicBand used at Disney World to get in and out of the park, or even the RFID chip in your passport, this technology has existed in multiple industries including the livestock industry.

Coming into prominence in the 2000’s, RFID tags have been used by livestock producers as an inventory management tool in each livestock sector, most prominently in the dairy cattle industry. These tags are stamped with an individual identification number and contain an electronic chip which interacts with the radio frequency emitted by the reader. Though the tags are electronic, they are not battery operated, meaning they will last the lifetime of the animal. Along with inventory management, a highlight of the RFID technology is the ability to track animals for animal disease traceability purposes.

In 2017, the legacy CattleTrace Pilot Project was commissioned to test the feasibility of a cattle disease traceability program, with participation from every sector of the industry: cow/calf producers, backgrounders, auction markets, feedyards and packers. It was determined that ultra-high frequency technology would allow each of the participating sectors to keep the speed of commerce needed for their operations, while allowing for the collection of the needed four data points from the UHF tags to create an effective database. Those points include the animals I.D. number, the date of capture, the time of capture, and the GPS location of the read.

Since many RFID technologies are in use today in the cattle industry, U.S. CattleTrace actively works with producers to accept disease traceability data in a standardized electronic format from the available technologies. The goal for U.S. CattleTrace is to build a contact tracing system for animal disease traceability that operates at the speed of commerce.

Though they aren’t running a competition to break any records, around the country 103 million head of cattle are passing through operations of all kinds. RFID shows promise in assisting U.S. CattleTrace create effective disease traceability in the cattle industry. To learn more about how RFID is used in our system or to inquire about connecting your RFID system in the U.S. CattleTrace database, email or call (785) 456-8472.



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