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Advanced technology: ASI hosts EID technology webinar

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

ASI hosts EID technology webinar 

The American Sheep Industry (ASI) sponsored a webinar on June 12 titled “Overview of EID Technology and Its Uses” featuring Sherwell Data U.S. Sales and Support Representative Dan Persons and Allflex Small Ruminant Business Development Manager Brandon Manning. The pair discussed utilizing radio frequency identification (RFID) and electronic identification (EID) on the farm and how to implement low frequency tags for flock management and official identification. 

Use and benefits

RFID is part of a group of automatic identification and data capture technologies allowing producers to automatically identify objects by simply scanning them. An EID tag contains an integrated circuit and coil antenna which transmits the date to the RFID reader via radio waves. 

“The biggest thing is the ability to gather data fast and accurately to save labor,” shares Persons. “And, to be able to intensively manage both larger and smaller flocks.” 

“The labor savings go both ways,” he adds. “If producers only have a few hours on a weekend to work sheep and need the process to be extremely productive – RFID allows producers to do so.” 

In addition, RFID allows producers to follow animals through the supply chains of major meatpackers. 

“With RFID being an electronic radio frequency, the tag does not have to be in a line of sight,” he says. “The tags can be read through tissue in the ear and the animal can be moving – producers don’t have to restrain the animal in order to visually read an ear tag.”  

Manning shares several benefits of EID management tools include adding a second form of identification, having a faster way to collect data of animals being worked, using an electronic version versus pen and paper and saving labor and time.  

For producers who manage animals individually, EID provides more accurate data per ewe or lamb, cuts labor and ties in with software, scales and other management tools to increase speed and accuracy. It allows ease of individual data collection for growth, wool and other traits, says Manning. 

“When producers are manually managing data, there is human error,” he says. “With EID, producers can cut back on the potentional for  human error.” 

RFID components 

There are several different components to a RFID system. The first is RFID devices – ear tag, implant or bolus – have a chip in them which can be read, Persons explains. 

“There are two different types of RFID tags – a passive and an active tag,” mentions Manning. “The passive RFID does not have an internal battery – they are powered by the reader while the active RFID are powered by a battery.” 

There are two main different styles of ear tags. A button-style tag consists of a large coil copper of wire serving the antenna and a small microchip attached to the antenna talking back and forth to a reader. 

There are also barrel-like shaped EID chips of very tightly wound copper, antenna and a microchip all incased in a tube of glass. 

“This style can be very small and lightweight and placed into many different configurations,” Persons says.

RFID devices can be purchased as a scrapie tag, he says. These are commonly referred to as an RFID 840 tag.

“To order the electronic scrapie tags, producers must have a scrapie flock identification number  and a national premise number,” he says. “The RFID 840 tag will have a 15 digit RFID number printed on it. This number is mandated to be printed on the outside of the tag.” 

The RFID chip number must start with the number 840 – the U.S. code worldwide.

“If producers ship animals from the U.S. to any other country, and they read the tag, it will start with an 840,” he says. “The RFID number will be linked to producers’ scrapie flock number within the databases of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”

The next component of an RFID system is an EID reader. There are several different varieties including stick readers, data loggers and panel readers, shares Persons. 

There are also various different devices to go along with EID, says Persons. These include sorters, panel readers and scales.

“This way, producers can weigh lambs without having to type in a weight and without having to type in an ear tag number,” he says.

The last component is software to manage all of the data the producer gathers, mentions Persons.

“This can be anything from a basic system with spreadsheet-style software or  complete flock management software which can keep lifetime records and genetic lines sorted out and separate,” he says. “Good software makes the data collection much more valuable.”

“Software is the key to traceability,” mentions Manning. “Multiple software companies can be used to provide access to the data for all parties and producers with packers as the book ends – the producers are the ones applying the RFID tag and the packers read the tags.” 

Using the data 

Persons encourages producers to use RFID data to determine poor performing and top performing ewes. In addition, producers can use the data to monitor death loses, track antibiotic use for natural lamb production, track daily gains, assess ram effect on finishing average daily gains, transfer data to the National Sheep Improvement Program for estimated breeding value calculations, select replacement ewe lambs and conduct on-farm trials.

“EID allows producers to gather enough information to determine what works best for their flock,” Persons says. 

“In addition to all the benefits RFID can provide as a management tool, the tags can also meet the requirements of the scrapie program,” concludes Manning.  

Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to 

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