LITS: tracking Botswana's livestock using radio waves
MetadataShow full item record
CTA. 2004. LITS: tracking Botswana's livestock using radio waves. ICT Update Issue 15. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57650
Tinus Burger describes the Livestock Identification Trace-back System (LITS) project in Botswana. LITS employs radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to capture data on individual cattle, which is transmitted directly, error-free, to a central d
ICTs can now be found in the most unlikely places. In Botswana´s southern Kweneng and Kgatleng districts, they are even to be found in the stomachs of more than 135,000 cattle. The cattle are participants in an initiative of the Ministry of Agriculture called the Livestock Identification Trace-back System (LITS), which aims to ensure that cattle in Botswana can be individually identified and traced throughout their lives. The system has been introduced to enable Botswana to comply with new regulatory procedures required by the European Union, which accounts for 80 to 90% of Botswana´s beef exports. The regulations, imposed following the outbreaks of foot and mouth disease in Europe, stipulate that all imports of deboned beef must be traceable from the packing plant back to the individual farms in the country of origin. Thus, exporting countries must set up and maintain a database on the production, distribution, processing and sale of meat products. LITS employs radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to capture data on individual cattle, which is transmitted directly, error-free, to a central database. The database enables Botswana´s meat export agency to obtain EU certification for its beef exports (see elsewhere in this issue), and is a key repository of information for livestock farmers, as well as for state veterinary services and health authorities. LITS is being implemented by AST Botswana and Inala Identification and Control (South Africa). The first phase, completed in 2001, involved the development of the database and the identification of all cattle in two pilot districts. In the second phase the system is being extended, and will eventually be the world´s largest livestock tracking, monitoring and management system using RFID technology, involving an estimated 3 million head of cattle. RFID technology At the core of the system is a bolus containing a transponder that is, with the aid of an applicator, inserted into each animal´s rumen. Each bolus carries a unique ID number and other data that can be read by fixed or portable readers and relayed to the database. Fixed readers, placed at over 300 strategic locations, scan the ID numbers and relay information on, for example, new registrations and disease treatments to 46 district offices. Extension officers are equipped with hand-held readers that allow them to collect data on cattle in their ´crushes´ or kraals. The convenience, speed and accuracy of the LITS system have brought many benefits for Botswana´s livestock farmers, veterinary officers and health authorities. It can be used to locate lost or stolen cattle, and to monitor and manage disease outbreaks. The stomach bolus is safe for the animals, there are few field losses, criminal tampering is not possible, and it is easy to read because it is always in the same place. Also, the bolus is retrieved at the slaughterhouse and can be recycled, keeping costs low. It is a vast improvement on passive livestock identification systems such as ear tags, which require animals to be checked manually until the correct one is found. Locating a dozen cattle that require treatment from a herd of 200 used to be very time consuming. Now, all the animals simply file between two RFID readers, and a control gate automatically guides the required cattle into an isolation pen. New ways of working LITS has encouraged everyone involved in livestock management to be more thorough and to be creative in finding new ways of working and monitoring performance. Veterinary officers, for example, can now: rapidly isolate animals for treatment; update health records at the point of treatment; track weight gain in selected animals; correlate feeding programmes with yield; select specific bulls for breeding programmes; and track animal family trees. Livestock are not only valuable assets, they are also the start of a food supply chain with serious consequences in terms of health and profitability if the risks are not properly managed. RFID technology can make a significant contribution to the auditing of livestock lifecycles for many purposes, ranging from improving yield and optimizing feeding regimes, to ensuring conformance with EU regulations. The LITS initiative has demonstrated the direct and immediate benefits that can be achieved through the application of established and emerging technologies. In Botswana the system is helping to ensure the long-term security of its beef export market and offers an additional marketing edge, enabling the country to compete worldwide for new export orders. The same principles are now being used to assist sheep and ostrich farmers in South Africa. mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org Tinus Burger is a member of the LITS implementation team. For more information, visit http://www.gov.bw www.gov.bw.