Ultra High Frequency (UHF) cattle tags have come out on top in an eight-year trial from ScotEID. The extensive trial compares two key EID technologies: Low Frequency (LF) and UHF with a 34-page report claiming later to be better for the Scottish cattle sector. However, concerns continue that England looks to be heading towards an LF option which is likely to throw up cross-border trade issues.

The ScotEID trial has been running for nearly a decade and involves 450 farms, 18 markets, and 14 abattoirs. Overall, more than 150,000 cattle were identified with UHF tags which were read one million times. According to the report, the UHF's accuracy is now regularly achieving 100%.

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The report states that the UHF option delivers speed, convenience, and safety with a key selling point the additional distance when reading the tags and the speed of reads in wide raceways using fixed systems. The trial also demonstrated reads when unloading cattle from transport containers or within containers.

Going electronic also can remove the need for passports and their barcodes or at least take them out of cross-compliance inspections.

Concerns have been raised that most of the world’s cattle tagging systems utilised LF technology but the report explains that UHF is now gaining traction in countries like the USA (Cattletrace), Brazil, South Korea, and among some Australian cattle exporters. However, there is no country in the world using UHF for official recording of movements.

Challenges remain to ensure a system that works across the UK. The Scottish Farmer understands DEFRA is moving towards an LF system to be rolled out in autumn 2024. But has recently commissioned a small comparison trial in collaboration with Harper Adams University. It is still unclear how two cattle tag systems would interact within the GB marketplace.

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NFU Scotland Vice President Andrew Connon said: “Scotland’s cattle industry has been waiting to embrace the benefits of electronic identification for more than two decades. Recommendations that we adopt electronic tagging were first made in 1999 and progress to this point has been hugely frustrating.

“This report, which clearly and concisely considers the electronic tagging options for cattle, steers us categorically towards Ultra High Frequency (UHF) technology, and its proven benefits, as being the way forward for electronically tagging Scotland’s cattle herd.

“Scotland can lead the way. While subject to further consultation, we believe the Scottish Government should now mandate the use of UHF EID in the Scottish herd at the earliest opportunity. Based on the report, UHF tagging is practical, adaptable, and user friendly and to not go down this route would be a step backward at a time when the industry has a chance to lead.”

A spokesperson from the Approved Livestock Identification Manufactures’ Association said that manufacturers were currently studying the report’s findings.