Dairy moves forward with animal ID

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RALEIGH, N.C. – Hershey Brothers Dairy Farm near Lancaster, Pa., recently installed a radio-frequency identification (RFID) system.
Dairy Records Management Systems, Lancaster DHIA, Dairy One, and National DHIA are participating in a cooperative agreement administered by the Pa. Department of Agriculture.
The goal is to develop a system that electronically captures and transfers farm premises and animal identification utilizing RFID.
Ear tags. The system installed at Hershey Brothers uses on-farm systems already provided by Dairy Records Management Systems.
Cows and calves were tagged with RFID ear tags currently available from several manufacturers.
A special scanner wand is held within 5 to 7 inches of the tag to scan the tag and electronically read the animal ID from the tag’s computer chip.
Data transfer. This data is wirelessly transferred to the PocketDairy software on a handheld computer that is available from most office supply or discount stores.
After the animals are scanned, the ID data is transferred from PocketDairy to the PCDART software on Hershey’s desktop computer.
PCDART merges the premises ID, verifies the data, and then transmits a file through DRMS to the department of agriculture database.
Simple start-up. Steve Hershey, a partner at the 250-cow dairy, was impressed with the ease of getting the system up and running.
“The process of tagging the cows, and setting up the management system was much simpler than I imagined,” Hershey said.
The RFID tags were applied with the same tagger the dairy uses for normal visible identification tags.
“Once you get the procedure down, applying RFID tags is no different than applying any other tag,” Hershey said.
In fact, he added, it took only 90 minutes to tag 200 cows and youngstock using lock gates.
Surprised. In addition to providing a method to input identification that supports disease traceback, the system adds value in improving cow management.
“The practicality of using the RFID tags for management purposes took me by surprise,” admits Hershey. “I was a little skeptical of whether I would find it useful. Within days, I realized the potential that a RFID system has to both speed data entry and improve accuracy.
“I have used the system for reproductive checks, health input, and general identification. I am sure that the longer I use it, the more uses I will find for it.”
Cost. The retail cost of RFID eartags is under $3, and the scanner technology is readily available from commercial sources for producers who wish to purchase it.
If a producer does not want to invest in the equipment and a computer, participating DHIA technicians will be equipped to operate this ID system.
Technicians working for affiliates serviced by Dairy Records Management Systems currently use PCDART on their laptops to input and transmit test day data. Technicians are also beginning to use handheld computers to test large herds.
ID is coming. The impending national identification requirements may be intimidating for some producers, but Hershey sees it differently.
“It gives me a comfortable feeling to be ahead of the curve on national identification,” Hershey said. “National RFID identification is coming, and must come for the health of the industry. I feel that dairymen need to embrace it and use it for their benefit rather than fight it.”
Learn more. Dairy Records Management Systems provides record processing and support services for 22 DHIAs in 43 states.
For a list of the DHIAs working with Dairy Records Management Systems that can deliver this technology, visit www.drms.org/support.htm or call 515-294-2526.

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