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High frequency tags studies positive

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Casper – For some the new iPhone 5, which recently made its debut, is the newest and latest piece of technology. But for agriculturists it’s the high frequency livestock ear tags that have everyone buzzing. This is the latest piece of technology that can help the future of agriculture and make farming and ranching operations much more efficient. 

High frequency ear tags may be the “next big thing.” Dallen Smith of Greybull, gave a presentation on the new subject at the Wyoming Natural Resources Rendezvous on Dec. 11. Smith is with the University of Wyoming Extension.

Researching tags

Smith informed, “The testing done just north of Glacier Park in Pole Haven community pasture that is split in 16 sections, which is in a four by four mile block.”

The 16 sections are in Canada bordering the U.S by Montana. Researchers, including Smith’s brother, who holds a very similar position in Canada, did the research.

“The elevation ranges from 4,500 to 6,000 feet. It used to be part of Waterton Park, but in 1947 the ranchers converted it into a community pasture,” Smith added.

This community pasture is used for logging, fire permits, hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, four wheeling and even horseback riding. There is a cabin in the Pole Haven community pasture that’s also for community use. 

Smith said, “They’re using radio frequency ear tags, and they’re using Google maps as part of the infrastructure on this, also SAR (a type of radar) and tower receivers are used to do all of this.” 

Examining elevation differences to decide where to put the communication towers for these high frequency tags is part of the process. The first year that the testing took place the research team placed three towers and decided that wasn’t enough, so eventually a fourth and fifth tower were put up. The towers are 30 feet high and are portable. Each tower costs about $1,000 and includes a base tower.

Live tests

The tags were actually tested on cattle this past summer, which was privately funded. 

The tags range in price and also in distance range, starting with a three dollar tag that would pick up at six inches. A five dollar tag lasts one year with the signal reaching approximately up to 10 miles. 

Work on improving the battery life is in the process. 

Another con to some of the different tags is that they can weigh up 40 grams, which caused loss of the tag from the ear. 

Additionally, the tags will not transmit a signal through the head of the animal, and researchers are working to improve that aspect as well.

Smith said, “This project had 34 ranchers, 250 yearlings from June to September and 650 pairs until August. There are no bulls in this pasture. They have to breed before they go into this pasture.”

One drawback to this community pasture is that there can only be 30 animals per producer.


Smith informed the audience on how there were a lot of benefits to the new tags and the program.

For example, if a gate is left open and producers only ride once a week, they are able to utilize a computer, username and password to find out where their cattle are. 

Another important aspect of these new tags is if cattle get stuck in a fence, sick or aren’t moving, producers can detect that information and know to check their livestock. 

The tags also help with cattle rustlers. 

“These tags saved six days while rounding up stragglers,” said Smith.

The GPS tracking on these new high frequency tags has the potential to save producers an incredible amount of time while gathering. A drive that would take four to six days could be done in two because ranchers have knowledge of where exactly their tagged cattle are, Smith explained. 


There are many things in this program that the researchers are working on improving, including position accuracy, increased coverage area in hilly areas, and a handheld reader linked to a smart phone. 

Researchers would also like to reduce maintenance on the receiving towers.

With aspects of the project being improved and changes being made to make it the best product possible, high frequency identification tags will most likely not be available on the market until 2014, said Smith, adding, that once this product is introduced, from the aspect of a rancher or farmer, the agriculture industry will only be improved and more efficient. 

Kellee King is an intern for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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