Kansas State University (KSU) research veterinarian Mark Spire is also part of the Kansas Transportation Initiative, a cooperative program between KSU and the Kansas Animal Health Department (KAHD). The initiative is being funded by an $805,000 USDA grant, part of $11.64 million awarded in a competitive program to states and tribes for a national ID plan's premise ID network.

Spire, along with KSU Extension beef cattle specialist Dale Blasi, are working with KAHD to evaluate the use of “field-based, mobile technologies.” Using global positioning satellites that mark animal loading and unloading sites, the system will link state health authorities' databases in the central U.S. with electronic individual cattle ID, premises ID and the location of the animals.

“Once completed, the system will use the radio-frequency ID on an animal to track it from the farm of origin, through the marketing process and all the way to slaughter,” Spire says.

Blasi says the project will address cattle movement. It's one of the critical issues in building the national animal ID system that USDA and the beef industry are currently developing. The aim is to achieve 48-hour trace-back on any animal in the event of a national animal disease emergency.

Also working in the project are AllFlexUSA, Digital Angel and Osborne Industries. The three firms are providing research and development, Blasi says.

“Right now we're in the discovery phase. We're developing a total concept for the animal identification program and working with the manufacturers to design it. We hope to have something to test within three months,” Blasi says. “Then we'll work with a packer to begin bringing cattle out of feedlots in Kansas to test the first component of the system.”

As part of the project, 20,000 head of cattle are planned to be run on and off trucks in a variety of facilities and environmental conditions.

“We'll be evaluating the feasibility of this technology and how well it could be incorporated with the commercial trucking industry. We'll train truckers on its use and provide a report on its performance with the truckers,” Blasi says.

Blasi expects “anti-contention,” instances where an electronic ID reader picks up more than one RFID signal at a time, to be the peskiest problem with such a system, particularly with lightweight cattle.

“Standard width on a livestock trailer door is 36 in., so only light cattle would be able to bunch up as they exit the trailer,” he says.