If you are a cattle producer living in Canada, you are no doubt aware of the role the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA) has in providing age verification and traceability for cattle in the country. If so, you’re probably also aware of the difficulties associated with RFID tags and getting correct information uploaded to CCIA.
Probably the number one issue I hear about is tag retention. RFID tags aren’t perfect and are sometimes lost. Since many ranchers have no specific use for RFID tags in cattle on their ranch, they often wait to tag their calves until just before shipping, simply to be legally compliant. This is unfortunate as an application like Herdly can make it so RFID tags are useful on the ranch long before calves are shipped. I’ll share some examples in a moment.
Related to tag retention is the issue of full traceability and accuracy of data. When an animal is sold and comes to a new place, the new owner is required to put a new tag in if the tag is missing. In real life it is rare that the previous RFID tag number is known so no cross reference is made and we lose the age and traceability information of the animal.
We’d all like to think that every birth date in the CCIA database is perfectly accurate, but of course that isn’t true. There are lots of places for error to creep in. Consider just two examples:
- A producer accidentally enters the wrong RFID number or birthdate of an animal.
- Rather than enter each calf separately, the producer saves time by entering a range of tags with an estimated birth date for the calving season. The producer accidentally includes a full bag of tags in the range, even though there are still a handful left. These tags are then used the following calving year, making the calves seem a year older than they really are.
Another issue is that RFID tag numbers are difficult to read by hand and readers are expensive. Not being able to read or enter the RFID quickly leads to errors or non-use.
Getting birth date and other information to CCIA is rather complex. If you’ve been through the process you’ll remember downloading template files from their site, entering your information into a spreadsheet, and then using their website to upload the spreadsheet. Don’t forget to log back in later to see if there were any errors! This is certainly no knock on CCIA. They’ve done a great job, but in a moment I’ll show how a dedicated app like Herdly can completely take care of this process for you.
Herdly Can Help
While Herdly can’t completely solve these problems, it can make a pretty big difference. Let’s
take a look at some of the areas where Herdly can help.
Linking RFIDs to Individual Cattle
As I mentioned above, many ranches don’t utilize RFID tags on their own animals. Because Herdly stores RFID tags with the animal it becomes possible to utilize the RFID tag in certain situations. Let me give three examples.
- Let’s say Herdly already knows the RFID tag on every cow. When you’re doing some kind of job, like preg checking, all you have to do when a cow enters the squeeze is scan her tag. Herdly is immediately ready to work with that cow. Record the preg check information, pull up her history—whatever you want. It’s faster, and more accurate, to record information on the fly like this than to write things down based on dangle tags and enter the results later. Obviously this example assumes an RFID reader is available.
- You’re vaccinating cows and one of them comes through without a management tag. Who is she? With an RFID tag you can scan it (or visually read it) and Herdly will instantly tell you who she is. You can give her a tag with her old management tag number or a new one and update it in Herdly. Either way, no history is lost.
- The reverse is also true. You’re bringing your calves through the chute and one of them doesn’t have an RFID tag. A quick search in Herdly with the management tag will bring the calf up. Give the calf a new RFID tag and scan it. Herdly will automatically do the cross referencing internally and with CCIA so no age verification or traceability history is lost.
Another advantage in these and other situations is that we are more likely to enter the correct information when we are dealing with it in the moment than if we wait and enter it later. Take, as an example, entering the birth date of a calf. If we record a New Calf event at the moment the calf is born, Herdly is able to default to the current date so it doesn’t even need to be entered. When the birth date CCIA event is created, the birth date is always correct. On the other hand, if someone writes the calving event in a book and later transcribes it to the computer, the probability for error goes up quite a bit. Herdly is designed to make it simple to enter information on the fly for this very reason. Greater accuracy with (by design) less information to enter. It’s hard to argue with a win-win!
Entering RFID Tag Numbers
As mentioned above, RFID readers are expensive. Because of the advantages of using the tags, we recommend purchasing one anyway, perhaps even sharing one among neighbors. But we recognize that not everyone has a reader and yet there are still advantages to getting the RFID numbers into Herdly. Normally entering a 15 digit number is really boring and error prone. We’ve thought a lot about this and come up with three features in Herdly that make it as simple as possible to enter the numbers.
- The simplest is still to use an RFID reader. Herdly works with almost every RFID reader on the market. One press of the button is enough for Herdly to accurately store an RFID number with an animal.
- When entering by hand, Herdly takes advantage of the fact that tags usually come in bags in such a way that they are easily used in numerical order. It does this by defaulting to the last entered number + 1 whenever you go to enter a new RFID tag. In situations where you are using the tags in order you’ll hardly ever have to actually enter the tag since Herdly will have already guessed it.
- If you still have to enter the tag number, we take advantage of the fact that the first 6 digits of the tag will almost always be the same. In Canada, for example, tags almost always start with 124000. Because of the way we buy tags in bags, often the next 3-6 digits will also be the same as other tags recently entered. So Herdly has a special keyboard for entering RFID tags that makes it so you only need to enter the last few digits of the tag number—only enough to make it correct. (You can still enter all 15 digits if necessary.)
Automatically Create CCIA Events
I mentioned above that getting birth date and other information to CCIA is somewhat complex. How can Herdly help with this?
Herdly automatically creates CCIA events in the background as you go about your day. You don’t even have to think about it happening. For example, when you use the New Calf action to record a calving and enter the RFID tag, Herdly will automatically create a birth date CCIA event in the background. Move some animals to a new location and Herdly will automatically create move in events for each animal. Record an animal death and the retired event will automatically be created.
These automatically created events aren’t sent to CCIA immediately. This gives you a chance to review them. When you are ready, you review them in the CCIA Events window and then submit them all with one click. Herdly takes over and gets them all submitted to the CCIA database in the background. You don’t even need to keep Herdly running while it is happening.
Herdly doesn’t stop when it has submitted your CCIA events. Remember above when I mentioned it was important to go to the CCIA website to check for submission errors? Well, while that is still true for other software packages, Herdly goes a step further by checking up on each submission later in the day. If there are any errors, it will be reported to you right in Herdly. The nice thing about this process is that when you have an error, you won’t just be looking at an RFID number. Herdly knows which animal is associated with the RFID number, making it easier for you to correct the issue.
You may be wondering which CCIA events Herdly can automatically create. Here’s a list:
- A Birth Date event will be created when saving a New Calf action.
- A Move In event will be created when saving the Move Animals action.
- A Move Out event will be created when saving the Remove From Herd action.
- A Retired event will be created when saving the Record Death action.
- A Replaced event will be created when saving the Edit Animal action if you’ve just given the animal an RFID tag and if it didn’t have one before.
- A Cross Reference event will be created when saving the Edit Animal action if you’ve just given the animal a new RFID tag.
Supported CCIA Events
You can also manually create CCIA events if you need to. This can be done for one or multiple animals at the same time. The following CCIA events can be manually entered:
- Birth Date Event
- Move In Event
- Move Out Event
- Retired Event
- Cross Reference Event
- Replaced Event
- Imported Event
- Exported Event
- Temporary Export Event
Taken together, these features make it easier for Herdly users to stay compliant with CCIA rules and send more accurate age verification and traceability information to the CCIA database, all while enjoying the benefits of using RFID tags as they work their cattle.
If you aren’t already using Herdly, we invite you to take it for a spin. Go to our Downloads page or look for it on the App store. Once installed you can play with the demo ranch and then create your own when you’re ready.
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