Frequently asked questions
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Electronic identification is a tool which allows keepers to record information on individual animals more quickly and easily, especially where large numbers of animals are moved at speed.
The electronic identifier has a microchip which contains the animal’s individual number. The electronic identifier can be an ear tag or a bolus (an identifier in a container that is swallowed and stays in the animal’s stomach).
The number in the microchip within the identifier can be read by using an electronic reader. There are different types available, ranging from simple stick readers which collect basic information on individual numbers and group counts, through to panel readers linked to race systems or weigh crates, and working with farm management software to collect a wealth of information on individual animals and flocks.
Simple recording of EID numbers and group counts can be achieved with a reader and computer (some readers can also transmit straight to a computer). However, in order to gain the benefit of electronic recording to assist with and improve the management of your flock, you will need to invest in a software program to collect and analyse the data.
For small flocks, a relatively low cost system may suffice but for larger numbers you will need to consider investing in higher performance readers and software, to allow you to hold more information and perform a wider range of management tasks.
Discuss with suppliers the options available to best suit your circumstances.
Full duplex (FDX) and half duplex (HDX) transponders read chips in slightly different ways. With HDX the reader sends out a signal then the tag replies, whilst with FDX, as soon as the tag receives the reader signal both tag and reader talk simultaneously.
HDX tags have a higher read range and are used for cattle. FDX tags have a smaller read range hence their use for sheep. To meet ISO standards readers are required to read both FDX and HDX tags.
Will my flock management software enable me to send my IDs directly to the EID Cymru database once it goes live?
It is likely that the various flock management software packages will need a simple upgrade in order to send data directly to EIDCymru. Before you buy your software, ask your supplier if they will be providing you with an upgrade in order to access EID Cymru and whether there will be a charge for that.
The EID tag should be placed in the left ear of the animal. This provides an industry standard and means that readers can be placed in the most appropriate positions and orientations so animals can be easily read no matter where they move to in their life time.
Readers should be used in accordance with the suppliers instructions but approximate distances for a handheld reader are 12 cm for an ear tag and 20cm for a bolus in the rumen. A stationary reader (static or panel reader) reads all types of identifiers at a typical distance of 50cm.
Please note how this compares to the distances from which different things can interfere with EID signals (see below).
Several things can affect a reader’s ability to read a tag or bolus and it doesn’t necessarily mean that the tag is faulty. Electrical motors (particularly variable speed motors), running engines, rubbing iron roofs and fluorescent lights can all interfere with the signal.
A static/panel reader can also pick up readings from other nearby sources including surplus devices, car key fobs and micro-chipped dogs).
Interference can affect readers to a distance of around 100 meters. Avoid using a stick and panel reader close together as they can interfere with each other. It is always useful to have a spare EID tag handy so that you can test the system before you start.
Steel can absorb the energy field from the reader, so instead of the energy field reading the tag, the energy is absorbed in the surrounding steel. Some readers can work well within stainless steel weigh crates and galvanised steel hurdle races, but some do not, so if you want to use your reader near steel do check this out before you invest.
In general, avoid placing readers within a steel surrounding unless you’ve done some “trial and error” in order to find the best reading position.
Readers need to be tuned into their environment to compensate for any disturbance or interference like steel, running motors (tractors etc), fluorescent lights etc.
Self tuning readers can help you to find the best working conditions and make it easy for you to take readers from one location to another and still maintain performance.
A Bluetooth connection enables electronic devices, for example a reader and weigh monitor or a reader and a computer, to communicate automatically with each other without the need for cable connections (wireless transmission of information).
Interconnecting power surges, sparks or shorting wires can damage devices. Make sure that each item is connected to its own power source (internal or external battery or power supply unit (transformer).
A reader can generally read as many tags as you can present it with, for sheep this can mean up to 400- 500 per hour.