Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Frequently Asked Questions

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What rule changes is the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) proposing for mandatory Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) ear tags?

WSDA is proposing to amend WAC chapters 16-86 and 16-604 to require that cattle be individually identified with an official United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) RFID ear tag instead of a USDA official metal tag when:

  • Female cattle receive Brucellosis vaccination.
  • Bulls are sampled for Trichomoniasis.
  • Sexually intact cattle and bison over 18 months of age that are presented for sale at a public livestock market.

Why is WSDA proposing the use of RFID ear tags?

A robust animal traceability system must be able to track the movements of animals from a Washington premise to slaughter and/or animal movement out of state, while at the same time expediting the speed of commerce.

RFID tags have proven to be a reliable, efficient, and cost-effective way to capture official, individual animal identification for the purposes of creating an Animal Disease Traceability system.

Implementing a robust ADT program in Washington State is essential to rapidly trace movements of diseased animals or at-risk animals exposed to disease. Animal disease traceability does not prevent disease, but is an indispensable element for ongoing disease control programs to protect the livestock industry and public health.

Does WSDA have authority to conduct rulemaking for mandatory RFID?

Yes, RCW 16.36.40 (2) allows the director to adopt and enforce rules necessary to prevent the introduction or spread of infectious, contagious, communicable or dangerous diseases affecting animals in the state. These rules may differ from federal regulations by being more restrictive.

What will the penalty be if I don't meet WSDA's RFID requirements?

If the proposal is adopted, penalties for failure to comply would be assessed and issued in accordance with RCW 16.36 and WAC 16-90, both of which establish financial penalties ranging from $150 to $1,000.

If RFID becomes mandatory, what tags will meet the criteria for Washington State "official" identification?

If the proposal is adopted, WSDA would anticipate identification requirements to include individual official identification with an 840 prefix, an operating frequency of 134.2 KHz (low frequency), AND be an “RFID” tag. It is likely that RFID tags or metal clips beginning with numbers other than 840 would not be considered official identification.

What is the significance of the "840" prefix?

The prefix 840 designates the U.S. as the animal's country of origin, as required by the USDA Animal Disease Traceability (ADT) rules.

Why would WSDA require "low frequency" RFID tags instead of the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) RFID tags?

"Low frequency" RFID tags and infrastructure are currently recognized in the marketplace globally. The UHF technology is being developed but the infrastructure within all segments of the industry and with trade partners has yet to materialize.

How much does an official 840 RFID electronic tag cost?

RFID tag costs are set by tag manufacturers and distributors, but typically range between $2.25 and $2.90 per tag. If the proposal is adopted, WSDA would work with the state's cattle industry in developing plans to assist in subsidizing official 840 RFID tags.

Where can I purchase RFID tags?

Producers can purchases official 840 RFID tags and tag applicators directly from tag distributors. Accredited veterinarians can purchase official 840 RFID brucellosis tags and applicators from WSDA. NOTE: In order to purchase 840 RFID tags, you must first have a Premises Identification Number (PIN) assigned to your premises.

What is a Premises Identification Number (PIN) and why is it needed?

A Premises Identification Number (PIN) is used to help identify animals. The PIN is a unique number assigned by a federal or state animal health official to a livestock production unit that is epidemiologically distinct from other livestock production units. Registering your premises and obtaining a PIN will provide WSDA and USDA with specific location information that will allow for easier animal tracking and a faster response in the event of an animal disease outbreak, thereby assisting producers if an animal health or food safety issue should ever arise.

Can producers order official 840 RFID tags without a premise number?

No. To order 840 tags, a Federal Premise Identification Number (PIN) is required because tags have to be assigned to a premise to provide traceability. You can obtain a PIN number by visiting the Premise ID page and filling out an on-line application.

Is the information captured by the RFID technology as well as my PIN information confidential in WSDA's database?

Yes. RCW 42.56.380(9) provides information protection for ADT information, including animal ownership, numbers of animals, locations, contact information, movements of livestock, financial information, the purchase and sale of livestock, account numbers or unique identifiers issued by government to private entities, and information related to livestock disease or injury that would identify an animal, person or location.

Will a tag applicator need to be purchased to apply 840 RFID ear tags?

Yes. A tag applicator that is compatible with the manufacturer's official 840 RFID tags would need to be purchased. If the applicator is not compatible, it may cause injury to the animal or destroy the tamperproof tag when applied and compromise tag retention.

When using an 840 RFID tag, where do I apply it on the cattle?

The tag should be placed in the animal's ear according to the directions supplied with the tag. Whenever possible, the tag should be placed in the animal's left ear. If the tag is applied in the right ear, care should be taken to avoid the brucellosis tattoo in females. Vaccination tattoos are found in the middle section of the right ear. Proper application is important for tag retention.

When using an RFID tag, do producers need to have an RFID reader to read the tags?

No special reader is needed. The front of the official 840 RFID tag has a 15-digit number printed on them. However, an electronic reader would make it easier to read and record the numbers accurately and efficiently.

What is the benefit to Washington State producers for having all cattle electronically identified with official 840 RFID tags?

Benefits include, but are not limited to:

  • Provides assurance for pre-harvest food safety and security.
  • Provides for rapid intrastate and interstate animal tracking for disease control and eradication; reducing the response time and increasing conclusiveness to food borne
  • Allows Washington producers to maintain and/or expand export markets.

Why do I have to tag my cattle with an ear tag if they are already branded?

While hot iron and freeze branding are useful tools for asset protection, relying on a brand for individual animal disease traceability is not feasible because a brand does not provide individual animal identification.

How will electronic identification and a robust ADT system benefit producers during a disease outbreak?

Electronic identification and a robust ADT system can:

  • Provide a better chance of receiving indemnity payment from USDA for lost livestock in the event of a disease outbreak.
  • Reduce the time and geographical area quarantined.
  • Reduce economic impact of disease containment and recovery.

Will I be required to re-tag my cattle with RFID tags if they already have official identification?

No. Animals with existing official identification devices will not be required to get new official 840 RFID.

Cattle may have two forms of official identification (i.e.: metal clip and RFID). However, the metal clip and the RFID must be paired and recorded on all animal health documents (i.e.: Brucellosis vaccination and Tuberculosis test charts, Trichomoniasis test charts, Certificate of Veterinary Inspection, etc.).

If an animal has lost official ID (i.e. metal clip, etc.), an official 840 RFID tag will be required as a replacement.

What if one of my cattle lose an official 840 RFID tag?

If this proposal is adopted, lost official 840 RFID tags would be able to be replaced with a new official 840 RFID tag. All secondary identification (i.e.: lost tag, metal tag, farm management tag, etc.) would then need to be paired with the new RFID tag number and recorded on all animal health documents.

What other countries have full or mandatory ADT and/or Electronic Identification (EID) programs?

Canada has had a mandatory RFID program in cattle and slaughter facilities since 2001; sheep, pigs, and poultry since 2006. RFID for cervids and goats will be mandated as of 2018.

Mexico implemented a national cattle ID program obligatory as of Feb. 1, 2017. Mexico currently has tagged 8 million head of cattle.

Canada and Mexico do not subsidize tags or equipment associated with the mandatory RFID programs.

Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Uruguay, and the European Union all have mandatory electronic ADT programs.

What other states have mandatory identification programs?

Most States are in the process of implementing ADT programs that include Electronic Identification, including:

  • Michigan - In 2002 implemented a mandatory ID program at livestock markets. In 2007 expanded regulations that all cattle must be identified with official Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) ear tags prior to movement.
  • Virginia - In 2014, mandated that comingled cattle must be officially identified.
  • Wisconsin - A Premises Identification Number (PIN) is required for anyone who houses or co-mingles livestock and must renew their PIN every 3 years. Indemnity will be denied without a PIN. Animals not meeting animal health requirements prior to arrival are not eligible for indemnity.
  • California - Dairy cattle born after Jan. 1, 2017 must be officially identified prior to leaving their birth premises, unless moving directly to an approved tagging site. All dairy cattle changing ownership must have official ID.
  • Minnesota - Official identification is required when cattle are imported or moving out of a herd within the state.