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Choosing EID equipment for your flock

These pages aim to provide you with objective information about the types of equipment that are available and practical advice about what types of equipment might be best for you.

Information is also available in this booklet, Making the Most of EID Recording – Practical ways to maximise the benefits of EID recording in your flock.

The types of equipment chosen will depend on your own farming situation, and what benefits you hope to gain.

Types of equipment

Tags and boluses

8223-300The electronic chips that carry the unique identification are usually carried in a tag or a bolus. Rumen boluses used to be the main way to use EID. They tend to have lower loss rates than ear tags but are more expensive. They are more difficult to administer and less easy to read using a hand-held reader.

Tags are the most popular, cheaper and more widely available way to use EID. EID tags have developed considerably over the past few years and several choices are available. Using good practice when tagging your animals will help to ensure good retention rates and avoid infections.

Stick readers

P1000049-300bStick readers are designed for quick and easy electronic reading. They are mainly used for reading EID numbers, displaying individual numbers and total group count. The EID numbers read are downloaded by cable or via Bluetooth (wireless) technology.

Stick readers can have a built in memory facility for reading and storing the EID numbers of a group of animals to create simple sub-groups or management groups.

Stick readers can generally be integrated with other equipment, for example a handheld computer, PC or mobile printer.

Typical features:

  • Storage for 3,000 – 10,000 individual numbers.
  • Four to six hours battery life from fully charged, depending on the settings.
  • Typical price range- £450 to £850.

Basic and more advanced handheld readers

P1000033-300These devices offer more functionality than a stick reader and can be used for basic data recording. Basic handheld readers have simple keypads which limits the ability to add additional data or management information.

The more sophisticated models have a numeric keypad which allows some data to be added. The handheld reader scans through a short antenna, making them less suitable for reading boluses.

These devices do not typically link to other equipment such as weigh heads or race readers, so they should not be viewed as ‘expandable’ tools.

Typical features:

  • Typical price range– Basic £300, advanced £650.
  • Suitable for flocks of less than 500 ewes.

Handheld reader with operating system

These are designed to store individual animal information in the field and enable more data to be collected and processed on your flock.

Data such as flock records can be carried into the field so that you can see animal records at a glance. Typically these readers can be integrated with more advanced electronic weighing, race-reading and shedding systems.

Typical features:

  • Large storage capacity – suitable for very large flocks.
  • Typical price range - £1,000 - £1,600.

Static/panel reader

Static readers are generally used in a sheep handling race, a weigh crate or in a mobile handling system. They enable animals to be read quickly with minimum human intervention. They use one or more antenna fitted onto the race or crate and, generally, if lots of animals are to be run through a reader quickly, the more antennae that are positioned in the reader the more likely it is that the tags will be read accurately.

Basic reading systems capture just the animal ID, whilst more advanced systems link the ID with the collection of other data. The performance of the reader can be significantly reduced by interference from other electromagnetic sources, so the choice of reader, it’s positioning, installation and the nature of the power supply being used are important factors in helping to get accurate read rates.

Typical features and price range:

  • £1,250 for a panel reading system.
  • £5,000 - £6,000 for fully integrated reading, weighing and shedding system.
  • £8,000 - £10,000 for an EID compatible, mobile, automatic handling system.

Farm software

The software is the programming that makes the reader work and allows it to communicate with other devices. It enables you to take the data you’ve collected and use it to judge the performance of your animals and to help you make management decisions.

The quality of the on-board software that operates hand-held readers will affect the reliability and the ease of use of the other electronic equipment that you use.

Flock management software can provide you with a range of features including individual animal performance data, veterinary records and medicine management. Whole farm systems are also available which include field records and farm accounts.

To be effective, any software chosen must be easy to use and able to store, analyse and report data efficiently and in a convenient way.


An antenna allows a reader to read EID tags. They are incorporated into the reader or fixed to the side or around race readers. The number and positioning of the antennae is important to ensure a good read rate.

Weighing equipment

P1000026-300Weighing equipment can be linked to handheld and to static readers. These systems enable the animal to be identified via EID and its weight automatically recorded against it.

Weighing systems typically consist of a pair of load bars fitted under a weighing crate and a weigh head which reads the weight and sends it to the reader via cabling or Bluetooth.

Drafting systems

Automatic and hand drafting systems are available. These connect a race system to reader units via Bluetooth technology. As each animal enters the race it is identified by its’ unique EID tag.

The animal can then be directed out of multiple gates based on any saved information such as breed, age, sex and breeding performance. Depending on the system chosen, the drafting process can be done manually by listening to audible signals or automatically by the system itself.

Data transfer

The information captured by EID readers can be transferred via cables or wirelessly through Bluetooth. The data can be captured in a number of ways:

  • From a stick reader to a portable printer to produce a simple paper printout, which you can give to a haulier or attach to a holding register.
  • To a laptop or office-based PC, where you can store and print your data.
  • To a personalized digital assistant (PDA) which can store or transmit data to another device, for example a printer or PC.
  • To a PDA/mobile phone, which can also email data to your farm PC or elsewhere.


Some suppliers offer equipment training to help get you started. The amount of training and support available to you after purchase may vary.

Ask your supplier about the training and after sales support that is available to you so you can get the most from your investment.

Next on Using EID - What system is right for you?

Within this material reference has been made to the following sources:

  • Electronic identification (EID) in sheep – Your technical guide (Defra)
  • A Guide to Electronic Identification (Shearwell Data Ltd)

2011-06-09-attached-A4 EUWG RDP4colclose-sml2This project has received funding through the Rural Development Plan for Wales 2007 - 2013 which is funded by the Welsh Assembly Government and the European Union. Disclaimer. Whilst all reasonable care has been taken in its preparation, no warranty is given as to its accuracy, no liability accepted for any loss or damage caused by reliance upon any statement in or omission from this website.