Livestock buyer’s guide: EID readers compared

Electronic identification provides a real opportunity for farmers to assess performance and improve efficiencies by identifying best performers.

While it can be quite costly to implement, depending on the system you choose, it does provide new opportunities for managing individual sheep and cattle because it enables monitoring throughout the animal’s lifetime.

See also: Buyer’s guide to grass measuring equipment

It also delivers improved traceability throughout the food chain.

We checked out some of the latest equipment on the market that can be used for both cattle and sheep.

What is EID and how does it work?

EID tags contain a microchip that can be automatically read by specifically designed equipment. They record individual numbers on the device and match that tag with all information relevant to an animal.

Readers link to a weigh head via Bluetooth to collect weigh data and this data can then be used in two ways – transferring directly to mobile phone app or tablet using other software, or the data can be stored and analysed in the weigh head and transferred to a computer.

Information that can be recorded does depend on software capability, but typically includes treatments, breeding information and weights.

There are two types of microchips:

  • A full duplex (FDX-B) which transmits a signal back to the reader the whole time the reader is transmitting
  • A half-duplex (HDX) which can’t transmit a signal until the reader stops 

To be fully ISO-compliant to international standards a reader should be able to read both types of microchip.

What types of technology are on the market?

  • Stick reader: records individual tag numbers – a quick and easy way to comply with traceability legislation
  • Handheld devices: for recording and identifying information such as lambing or calving records, health and breeding
  • Static readers: these differ from hand held readers in that they are mostly static. i.e. attached to a weigh crate. They only read the EID and transmit this information to another device such as a weigh head or a computer
  • Weighing equipment: accurately measures animal weight to allow farmers to track performance
  • Drafting equipment: allows drafting of animals based on any saved criteria such as animals that need hoof-trimming or medication or by weight.

Which one you choose will depend on how much you want to spend and what information you’d like to record, but typically stick readers are the cheapest, starting from £500, while automatic drafting equipment will set you back several thousand pounds.

Stick readers for cattle and sheep

Shearwell Data SDL440S stick reader.

stick reader

 

What information does it record?

It has the memory capacity to store 16,000 records and up to 26 different groups of animals. It allows multiple movements to be recorded without having to upload in between.

What are the main features?

 It can read a tag from a range of up to 20cm and if the animal is read twice the display will alert the user.

How much does it cost?

From £550 ex. VAT

Does it read both FDX-B and HDX tags?

Yes.

Is a phone app available?

Free Android and iPhone apps are available. EID Connect enables the sharing of EID numbers via email, cloud storage and with other apps and Stock Move Express allows farmers to manage their flock and herd registers.

What computer software is required and what about connectivity?

Desktop software is required for Microsoft Windows or Apple Mac. It uses Bluetooth to provide software to access stored or live reads.

Tru-Test® XRS2 stick reader

stick reader

 

What information does it record?

It can record up to 15 pieces of information for each animal. This includes information such as breed, sex, date of birth and body condition score (BCS). It is suitable for cattle, sheep and deer.

What are the main features?

It has a large memory. It can store up to one million scanned tags and reads up to 1,100 tags a minute with a read distance ranging from 33cm to 35cm depending on tags being scanned. Alerts can be set for pre-selected animals.

How much does it cost?

£799 ex. VAT

Does it read both FDX-B and HDX tags?

Yes.

Is a phone app available?

Yes, called Tru-Test Data Link. 

What computer software is required and what about connectivity?

Free software can be downloaded using Data Link for Windows, Apple iOS and Android.

Allflex RS420 Stick reader

stick reader

 

What information does it record?

It records the EID number and 10 data fields from a pre-defined list. Allows the user to upload cross-reference files to identify animals in a mob or for treatments/drafting, identify extra animals in a mob and to draft stock.

What are the main features?

It stores up to 100,000 records in sessions with time and date stamp. It vibrates, makes a noise and the light flashes to alert user when a tag is read.

How much does it cost?

£620 ex. VAT

Does it read both FDX-B and HDX tags?

Yes.

Is a phone app available?

Yes, called iLivestock which allows users to manage their animal movements and treatment data and also order ear tags.

What computer software is required and what about connectivity?

Connects to a PC via Bluetooth or USB. Allflex EID Tag Manager software allows user to download and upload information to the stick reader.

Agrident AWR300 stick reader

stick reader

What information does it record?

It can be used to link offspring to parents, records weights and medicine treatment. There is also a function to review an animal’s history.

What are the main features?

It reads tags within a 30cm range and stores up to 1 million data sets. The battery lasts up to 30 hours in push-to-read mode and 12 hours when in permanent-read mode. It has an exchangeable battery, large colour display screen and flashing light to alert users when tags are read.

How much does it cost?

£649 ex. VAT

Does it read both FDX-B and HDX tags?

Yes.

Is a phone app available?

Yes, it connects with Agrident Android app and Apple IOS.

What computer software is required and what about connectivity?

It comes with AWRLink software for recording a full range of management data. There is an option to upgrade to software with the capability for analysing and performance reporting and creating individual record cards for each animal.

Datamars Airstick EID stick reader

stick reader

 

What information does it record?

It records animal lifetime data such as date of birth, pregnancies and vaccinations.

What are the main features?

It can hold more than one million records and has a reading distance of up to 31cm for FDX-B tags and up to 37cm for HDX. It also has a flashing LED light, vibration and audio to alert user of a successful tag read. It has a search function to recall animal data and allows printing.

How much does it cost?

£549 ex. VAT

Does it read both FDX-B and HDX tags?

Yes.

Is a phone app available?

No.

What computer software is required and what about connectivity?

S-ID software allows data entry, data download, reader configuration and data handling.

Bluetooth connectivity is required for real time and printing. USB connectivity is also available.

Weigh heads for cattle and sheep

Tru-Test XR5000

weigh head

What information does it record?

It can be used in conjunction with a panel reader to enable drafting in up to 10 ways including for weight. It also allows users to calculate target weights, track weights and apply and manage treatments.

What are the main features?

It stores up to 1m records in 1,000 weight sessions. It can record up to 100 pieces of information per animal.

How much does it cost?

£1,993.41 ex. VAT

Does it read both FDX-B and HDX tags?

If used in conjunction with panel reader, which must be purchased separately, then it does read FDX-B and HDX.

What computer software is required and what about connectivity?

Information can be transferred using an Android or Apple mobile phone, USB flash drive or computer with Microsoft Windows installed, or sessions can be uploaded via wi-fi direct from the device to MiHub Livestock Management software.

 Te Pari T10 weigh head

weigh head

What information does it record?

It records weights and gives different weighting speeds for sheep and cattle. A gun (which can be purchased separately) also connects to the weigh head using wi-fi to calculate dosage for treatments based on animal weights.

What are the main features?

It stores 30,000 records and connects to readers, apps and a digital drench gun.

How much does it cost?

£850 ex. VAT

The digital drench gun costs £720 including VAT.

Does it read both FDX-B and HDX tags?

An SDL150 panel reader, Agrident ASR550 panel reader or SDL440 stick reader can be purchased in addition and all read both HDX and FDX tags.

What computer software is required and what about connectivity?

It connects to external devices using a serial port, Bluetooth or wi-fi. It links to Shearwell Stock Recorder for recording farm management data and to control other devices such as drench gun and drafting crate.

Gallagher TW-3 weigh scale and data collector

What information does it record?

Records weights and average daily gain. It records traits including breed, sex, date of birth, notes, BCS and treatments.

What are the main features?

It has a LCD 7in display touchscreen. Users can record up to three traits per session and plot weights.

How much does it cost?

£1,915.83 ex. VAT

Does it read both FDX-B and HDX tags?

The TW-3 on its own will not read tags. It requires either a panel reader or a stick reader to act as the antennae. These must be purchased separately. 

What computer software is required and what about connectivity?

It connects to drafters or readers via a serial cable or Bluetooth to a PC via USB.

Hand-held reader for cattle and sheep

Gallagher SmartReader HR5 portable hand-held reader

smart reader

 

What information does it record?

It records individual animal data such as BCS, sorts animals and links mothers to offspring.

What are the main features?

A single vibration is felt in the handle with every successful EID tag read. It has a read range of 27-33cm and when the memory is 90% full a pop-up warning is displayed.

How much does it cost?

£1,440.83 ex. VAT

Does it read both FDX-B and HDX tags?

Yes.

Is a phone app available?

Yes, the Gallagher Animal Data Transfer app for Android and Apple phones can be downloaded for free. Gallagher Dashboard also available.

What computer software is required and what about connectivity?

It is supplied with Animal Performance Software for installing on PC, enabling the transfer of data between the HR5 reader and a PC via Bluetooth, wi-fi or USB.

Key considerations when purchasing EID equipment:

  • Don’t assume if a reader is attached to a crate it has been tuned properly or has the degree of required backup. Always check with the supplier
  • Choosing a reader that can read both HDX and FDX-B B means it will be compatible with bought-in animals with different technology
  • Bluetooth reduces the risk of cables being chewed or not working
  • Spikes in electricity supply can detune the reader and stop a read.

Current EID regulations for sheep and cattle

In Northern Ireland, all sheep must carry full EID double tagging with one electronic tag and one non-electronic – but in England and Wales the full EID rule applies only for sheep not intended for slaughter under 12 months of age.

Lambs destined for slaughter within 12 months, interpreted as the end of June in the year following birth, can instead carry a single electronic slaughter tag.

In Scotland, a single electronic tag can be used in all lambs under 12 months of age as those then kept for breeding can be upgraded to full EID.

In Scotland, by 1 January 2020 all newborn calves will have to be EID-tagged. Although adult cattle will not have to be retagged immediately it is likely to be the case by 1 June 2022 for all cattle leaving the holding.

Discussions continue in regard to the rollout of the system throughout the rest of the UK and how to manage it.

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