EU funded project assesses electronic identification systems for livestock traceability

May 7, 2003

Brussels, 06 May 2003

Proponents of improving the veterinary monitoring of livestock will be encouraged by news that an EU funded research project has developed an individual electronic tagging system capable of substantially improving the traceability of livestock across Europe.

The results of the electronic identification of animals (IDEA) project were showcased by the Commission on 5 May at a farm near Rome in Italy. Funded under the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5) and run by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the project involved six Member States and ran for a period of three years.

According to European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin, the proposed solution is not only unique, but is also essential in preventing agricultural subsidy frauds and reinforcing health and safety controls. 'This is crucial for tracing animals during major animal disease outbreaks such as foot and mouth disease,' he said.

One of the key objectives of the project included finding a device that could be fitted for the entire lifespan of an animal, and if necessary, recovered in the slaughterhouse. The accompanying monitoring system also had to be capable of working in real livestock scenarios. Above all, the system had to be easy to implement and cost effective to ensure a wide take up in Europe.

During the project, over one million animals from four different species were fitted with one of three types of electronic tag: certified electronic ear-tags, ceramic capsules retained in the animals' second stomach or injectable transponders. Each device was verified on a daily, monthly and annual basis, in order to evaluate its performance under different conditions.

Current identification systems, such as ear tags and marking tattoos have proven to be ineffective in monitoring livestock for fraud control and sanitary purposes. Ear tags, for instance, can easily be lost, broken or altered. Monitoring is also slowed down by the use of manual transcription methods, which more often than not lead to mistakes in the data records of livestock.

During tests in farm animals such as cattle, buffaloes, sheep and goats, the project team assessed the reliability of the readers and the certification procedures necessary for implementation. Tests also took into account intensive and extensive rearing, the European transport system of farm animals, slaughtering techniques, and environmental differences between northern and southern Europe.

No technical impediment was found during the testing of the electronic identification system, meaning that the implementation of such a system could be swift.

The findings of the project have already led to concrete action by the Commission, which has submitted a draft proposal for a Council regulation on the identification and registration of sheep and goats. Furthermore, the standing committee on the food chain and animal health are expected to assist the Commission by drawing up guidelines for implementation, based on the results of the IDEA project.

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CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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