Regulations for the Use of RFID in Livestock Sector

ear-tags-cattle-livestock-RFID-blogRFID ear tags are widely used for livestock. They not only help better manage livestock, but also monitor the animals’ conditions in real time. But is there an international standard for RFID’s use in this sector, or do regulations differ from one nation to another?

In fact, regulations vary widely from country to country. Australia and New Zealand require the use of RFID to track certain types of livestock, in order to protect both consumers and the countries’ export of meat and other animal products.

A few years ago, Canada responded to a mad cow disease scare by requiring the cattle industry to replace the existing barcode system with RFID by the end of 2009. All cattle leaving Canadian farms of origin now must be fitted with RFID tags. The unique identification numbers on those tags are linked in a database with the movements of each animal until its slaughter or export.

Other nations have instituted mandatory livestock tracking without specifying a technology. Argentina and Brazil, for example, have instituted mandatory identification and tracking programs for cattle, though RFID is not specified. And the European Union has required RFID tags for sheep and goats for disease control purposes. Use of RFID on cattle was voluntary, but now, under EC1760/2000, it is recommending the mandatory use of RFID since so few used it voluntarily.

In the U.S., RFID tracking of cattle has been made mandatory in only one state — Michigan, and that was prompted by the need to keep bovine tuberculosis under control. The National Animal Identification System (NAIS) requires animals to be identified uniquely, but does not require RFID tagging.

Now more and more farms are using RFID ear tags to track animals for consumer safety purposes. RFID will be the preferred technology in the long run because it is easier and faster to use than having to scan barcodes.