In Denmark, dairy farmers are finding new uses for RFID and Real Time Location System (RTLS) technology: to locate individual animals within herds and to analyze those animals’ movements in order to predict which are entering heat and which are ill. With this information, the farmers can better schedule insemination of those that are ovulating and remove sick animals from the herd in hopes of treating the illness. The results: more successful pregnancies, better farm production, and increased profits (http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/view/5083/1).
The system is comprised of active, ultra-wide band RFID tags and readers. The tags emit a series of extremely brief signals (lasting billionths of a second or less) at frequencies between 6 and 8 GHz. As the pulses are emitted, the RFID readers calculate the tags’ locations by using time difference of arrival (TDOA) and angle of arrival (AOA) techniques. Because of the pulses’ brevity, the signals are less affected by interference from objects and other RF noise than most conventional RFID RTLS systems—thus improving accuracy and reliability.
In addition to using the technology to monitor which animals are ill and which are in heat, some dairy farmers are using RFID to ensure that cows are milked multiple times each day. These farmers use robotic, automated milking machines, over which RFID readers are mounted. The readers catch the signal emitted by the passive, ISO-compliant 134.2 kHz RFID tag attached to each animal’s ear, letting farmers know that the animal has been milked. If the data captured by the system suggests that a specific cow hasn’t been sufficiently milked, the farmer can use the system to track the cow to its exact location—a chore that used to take hours to complete.
With the system, Danish farmers are realizing a savings of $60 to $67 per animal, per year. On larger farms, this could translate to annual savings of nearly $40,000.