RFID Talk Blog

Wisconsin farmers surpass one million mark for livestock tagging

Tracking animals with RFID continues to explode, especially in Wisconsin, where dairy farmers recently tagged their one-millionth cow.

By comparison, only 138,260 RFID tags had been recorded for tracking animals two years ago. By March 2009, that number had grown to 405,134. According to the Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium, only 16 percent of the milking dairy herd in Wisconsin is identified by RFID, leaving room for massive growth.

“Wisconsin farmers have really stepped up to the plate when it comes to using RFID,” says Ben Brancel, Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection for the state of Wisconsin. “Using RFID improves traceability and opens doors to international markets.”

Animal tracking with RFID – tags are usually placed in the animal’s ear — is being driven by consumers who are more conscious of where their food comes from, as well as safety and food tracing initiatives. In addition, the agricultural industry is pressing for more traceability due to residue and disease issues.

For example, farmers saw significant benefits when TB-tests had to be conducted on a 3,000-cow herd that had been exposed by imported cattle. Brancel says that 360 animals an hour needed to be tested each hour to avoid disrupting the milking operation. If authorities had to manually read and record data for that many animals, it would have required 36 staff members and cost $84,000. Because the herd was tagged with RFID, only six people were needed to complete testing, at a cost of $22,000. Just as important, the producer’s operation experienced no interruptions in processing.

“We’ve seen a dramatic example of how RFID can save producer headaches and taxpayer dollars,” says Brancel. “Those are results you can take to the bank, and we’re glad Wisconsin farmers know that.”

Over the past few years, WLIC has worked with producers, county fairs, veterinarians, and other livestock groups to promote the value of animal identification and RFID for herd management as well as animal health and traceability purposes. WLIC also offers tag programs where producers and county fairs looking to implement RFID can apply to receive RFID tags at no cost. These tags are distributed on a first come, first serve basis, to qualified applicants.

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