In 2004, the U.S. Government asked farmers to use EID or Electronic Identification ear tags on all their cattle. This request was part of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) spurred by the discovery of the first case of mad cow disease in the United States. Problem is - the EID tags they told farmers to use don't work very well. If you tried to use an EID tag to identify an animal, you had to walk right up to that animal and stick a long rod within a few inches of the animal’s ear, which is not always very easy. Clearly, the designers never tried to get a 1200 lbs cow to stay still after giving it a vaccination.
Animal Identification Number (AIN) Tags also had to be visible, which typically meant tagging the animal a second time. In addition to these challenges, farmers were concerned that other people could access their confidential information and so only about 30 percent of cattle producers tried using these EID tags. Even so, the majority of the EID ear tags on cattle in U.S. and Canada are using this older generation technology.
All EID tags use radio frequency identification, or RFID, technology. The first international standards used specifically for animal identification are ISO 11784 and ISO 11785. RFID standards have improved a lot since this standards were introduced and today farmers all over the world are now using the next generation RFID technology for Electronic Identification of Cattle, which uses the ISO/IEC 18000-6C standard. This is the same standard being used by retailers for global supply chain operations and traceability, which includes fresh produce and other food items. Not only does Ear tags using this standard meet the Animal Disease Traceability criteria for official identification for individual animals, but farmers can identify all the animals in a herd faster (hundreds per minute) and from further away (4 meters or more). Most importantly, the next generation cattle management systems that use this standard keep farmer’s confidential information secure so they’re in control of who sees their records.