by Stephanie Overby

Cow Chips

Oct 15, 20012 mins
Supply Chain Management Software

The Botswana Ministry of Agriculture is installing the largest RFID system for cattle in the world.

The Botswana Ministry of Agriculture is installing the largest radio frequency ID system for cattle in the world. But the Gaborone-based government agency isn’t taking the high-tech road simply to lead the world in livestock tracking. New European Union (EU) regulations aimed at identifying sources of disease require that exported packs of deboned beef be traceable from packing plants back to the individual animals the meat came from, with that information available in a centralized database. And the EU is Botswana’s biggest export market for beef. Manual tagging isn’t practical for the remote kraals and cattle posts in this African nation.

Two companies — AST Botswana in Gaborone and Inala Identification and Control in Midrand, South Africa — have contracted with the Ministry of Agriculture to design and implement the Livestock Identification Trace-back System (LITS), which will eventually monitor 4 million head of cattle. A pellet containing a transponder chip with a unique ID number is inserted into the animal’s stomach. This makes it possible for a radio frequency reader to scan the ID number and relay it to a field computer. In addition to making Botswana compliant with EU regulations, the LITS system also makes it easier to locate lost or stolen cattle, improves the ability to manage disease outbreaks and lowers costs because the ID pellets can be recycled, according to ministry officials.

So far, the ministry has rolled out a database for the system and has begun to launch it in two districts. By July, 75,000 head of cattle in the Kweneg district and 60,000 in the Kgatleng district had been tagged. A nationwide rollout is expected in the next two years.