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Cows With An Ear For Technology

October 31, 2001

Cows With An Ear For Technology

An affordable and innovative New Zealand-made electronic livestock management and traceability system could be in farmers’ hands early next year.

The system called EDIT (electronic data identification tag), has been developed by Auckland-based software engineers Electronic Data Holdings Ltd (EDHL). They say EDIT will provide tangible financial benefits to farmers as well as meeting stringent global market compliance requirements.

Colin Harvey of EDHL says besides its traceability attributes, the system offers farmers a complete livestock management system that is easily downloaded onto a computer.

The system includes a transponder that forms part of a typical ear tag, called an EDIT tag, and a handheld, battery-powered electronic reader or terminal with the size, durability and convenience of a cell phone with computer interface.

“It helps improve returns as a direct result of more precise stock management practices through accurate recording of vital stock management information.”

He says the cost of the system is currently estimated at around $6,250 for a 250 strong beef or dairy herd over five years or $8,000 for a herd of 500 over a similar time scale. Trials have shown that the system will more than pay for its capital cost during that time.

The EDIT tag is effectively a small disk about the size of a 50 cent piece that is incorporated into an existing ear tag and has sufficient memory to record all the details of an animal’s life from its genetic and birth details, to treatment and production records. The hand held terminal has memory capacity to store complete records for multiple thousands of animals for the life of each animal.

Mr Harvey says the software allowed for full recording of every detail relating to an animal and has been initially set up for beef and dairy herds.

“Take dairy as an example. Besides all the descriptive data such as birth, breeding and treatment records; milk yields, likely time for oestrus return, calving track record and details of any problems are all held on the EDIT tag which can be read anywhere using the terminal. Farmers can effectively have an easily accessible case history on each animal at their fingertips in the paddock.”

He says the EDIT system will also have an in-built security system allowing only particular users to modify certain fields of information with some data written to the tag on a “write once basis” such as birth and breeding details. The secure fields will likely cover the use of antibiotics and other treatments that are critical to market traceability requirements.

“Everyone seems to recognise that New Zealand’s continued success in global food markets is totally dependent on the integrity of our livestock. The speed, accuracy and affordability of the EDIT system meets all international traceability requirements as well as providing farmers with a fully integrated management tool that can contribute to improved returns.”


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