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Retinal scans eyed for New Mexico show cattle

4-H and FFA exhibitors have been required to submit hair samples for DNA analysis to serve as a permanent means of identification. "DNA analysis is costly and requires a complex laboratory procedure that takes time," he said. "Also, hair samples have been lost in transit."

Among the show cattle, researchers found that the retinal scans proved a near-perfect animal ID technology because of its speed and accuracy, Encinias said. However, the eye-scans might not be practical on a working ranch due to cost and technical skill required.

Separately, NMSU experts examined RFID tags alone on several hundred cattle on a communal grazing allotment in the Valles Caldera, an 89,000-acre area in the Jemez Mountains. Communal grazing allotments are typically seasonal, running from May to October.

"We wanted to show the small-scale producers of northern and central New Mexico that this animal ID technology will work for them, too," Encinias said.

The $2 tags contain a unique 15-digit electronic code identifying each animal like a Social Security number for life. Located on the cow's left ear, the tags are about the size of a bottle cap. With more than 900 RFID tags applied since May, only two have been lost.

Using a panel tag reader located on a cattle chute, researchers found that the RFID tags could be readily read as cattle passed through a single-file alley. Effective range for this particular electronic reader was about two feet.

"A prime goal was not to slow down the normal production process, and I think we did that," he said. "We maintained a single-file, continuous flow with a reliability rate of more than 93 percent. It's not 100 percent, and that's something we're working on."

The animal ID projects, which were conducted in cooperation with the state veterinarian's office and the New Mexico Livestock Board, were funded through a USDA grant, and were designed to evaluate the technology specifically for New Mexico'
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Source:New Mexico State University


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