As the U.S. livestock industry inches toward a National Animal Identification System, Kansas State University (KSU) has forged a reputation as one of the premier sites for education and research in radio-frequency ID (RFID). That reputation is about to gain some significant added luster.

Dale Blasi, KSU Extension beef specialist, tells BEEF that an Animal ID Knowledge Laboratory has been created at KSU. A complementary use and mission for KSU's Beef Stocker Unit, a state-of-the art processing facility located five miles northwest of Manhattan, the new Animal ID Knowledge Laboratory will be an education and testing facility for emerging and existing RFID technologies.

“I'm inundated with questions from producers on various RFID equipment and systems. What better way to find answers than testing these products and systems in a controlled environment?” Blasi says. “The results will be public and add to our industry's RFID knowledge base.”

Blasi is working with KSU's Electronics Design Lab in designing the testing component of the facilities.

“They'll help ensure the radio spectrum is appropriately evaluated in terms of output power from the interrogator to the antennae, radiated power out of the antenna, center frequency of the radiated power and harmonic distortion of both sides of the center frequency, etc.,” Blasi says. “We want to carefully characterize the operating environment so our testing can be repeatable elsewhere. It's no different than designing a nutrition or vaccination testing regime.”

A total of 24 cattle pens (three rows of eight pens with each pen accommodating 10-15 calves) will be built adjacent to the Beef ID Knowledge Laboratory. The pens will serve as a custom receiving facility with private feedyards paying yardage fees for the service.

Beginning in August, every 45 days from August through April, Blasi says the facility will rotate 300 head of cattle through the custom receiving program.

“The idea is we'll have a reliable source of cattle with which to evaluate technologies on a fairly quick basis. But, we're trying to make this (testing protocol) as real world as possible,” he says.

Applied research on cattle health and nutrition applicable to beef stocker operators will still be conducted, Blasi says, but the receiving element, along with custom testing of RFID equipment and systems for private firms, will help pay the bills.

“The animal ID component fits perfectly with our focus on conducting nutritional, animal health and receiving research,” Blasi says. “It's a perfect environment in which to conduct practical ID and software evaluations.”

Formal dedication of the new facilities and mission will be during the 2005 BEEF Stocker Conference slated for mid September.