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RFID tagging best done in warm weather — PAMI

Research at the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI) into why radio frequency ID (RFID) tags sometimes just won’t stay put found cold temperatures have a “profound effect” on tag strength.

RFID tags certified by the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA) have been tested for retention under cold temperatures, readability and their ability to withstand tampering.

However, a research team working with PAMI decided to use an engineering approach (pictured above) to test the mechanical strength of six types of RFID tags while following best practices for application such as using compatible fronts and backs and the correct applicator for each tag.

In measuring the force needed to break the tags apart, the team found the different tag types all met CCIA’s basic requirements for tag strength.

However, temperature was shown to have a profound effect on the tags in terms of strength and tag retention.

PAMI’s testers brought both the tag and the applicator down to -30 C, then inserted the tag and brought it back to ambient temperatures before testing its strength.

“We found that if the tags were inserted cold, they were much weaker than those inserted at room temperature,” says Joy Agnew, PAMI’s project manager for ag research services at Humboldt, Sask. The tags were also more difficult to insert when cold, and broke apart “far more easily, even when back at room temperature.”

The lesson learned, PAMI says is that it’s best to avoid tagging animals in extremely cold temperatures. If the job can’t be avoided, both the tag applicator and the tags themselves should be kept warm while you are working the cattle.

Paul Laronde, a member of the CCIA technical advisory committee, says all tags approved by the agency were subjected to cold down to -35 C in laboratory conditions, equivalent to the severe environmental conditions faced by beef cattle across Canada. That also exceeds known standards for all other jurisdictions that operate animal identification programs.

New testing standards will include additional environmental testing of tags, including accelerated aging of tag plastics and resistance to ultraviolet light degradation.

A new national tag testing framework has reached the final stages of development where tag manufacturers must assess the cost of meeting to new standards for RFID tags.

Laronde says CCIA follows the International Committee of Animal Recording (ICAR) standard for approving tags and tag manufacturers.

Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) has received funding to build and certify an ICAR-approved tag testing facility in Alberta to test new ear tags for CCIA and other livestock identification programs.

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