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RFID Tags for Use in Swine in PA

RFID Tags for Use in Swine in PA

By Cheryl Ann Fairbairn

Understand the reasons for using radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to identify swine in commercial herds and show pigs.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture now mandates that all show pigs must have RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags in their ears. What does this mean for pork producers and junior swine members who show hogs?

As a pork producer, whether you own one sow or a thousand you should have a premise ID. The premise ID is a number recorded with the state that allows the state to notify you if a major disease outbreak, either foreign or domestic, would occur in your area or across the United States. It is not available publicly and is only used for disease notification if necessary. For the safety of your farm in terms of disease prevention, a premise ID is a must. You must have a premise ID to order RFID tags. If you do not have a premise ID, you can apply for one online. Go to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's Premise Registration Form. Complete the form and in a few weeks, you will be sent your Premise ID number.

Once you have your Premise ID number, you can then order 840 RFID tags from many different companies. A listing of all approved tags from various companies can be found on the USDA APHIS site. Make sure you order RFID tags and not AIN tags. AIN (Animal Identification Number) tags look like RFID tags with an 840 number, but they cannot be read by a wand or reader. They are only visual tags and are not acceptable for PA shows. RFID tags should be placed in a pig’s ear at the time of sale to a junior member. Do not wait for the junior member to ask you to do it. This is new to them also so many are not aware of the new rule. If you have already sold pigs without putting an 840 RFID tag in the ear the buyer may come and ask you for one once they find out that they cannot get a health paper unless they have one in the ear. By planning ahead, you can be sure to have tags on hand at the time of sale or when the kids come looking for them at health paper time.

Junior members should always ask for an RFID tag to be placed in the hog’s ear at the time of purchase. If the breeder does not have them you should ask him/her if they are planning on getting them since it is a requirement for PA hog shows. If they are unsure of the process have them call the PA Department of Agriculture or their extension educator to find out the process to obtain tags. You cannot ask another producer who has tags if you can use one of their tags to place in a pig’s ear that was not purchased from them. That tag traces back to their premise ID and if a disease is detected, it will trace back to the wrong farm thus hindering the stop of that domestic or foreign disease. If you did not ask the producer when you purchased the pig then call your veterinarian and ask them if they have RFID tags that are tied to their premise ID that they could place in the hog’s ear at the time of issuing health papers. If they are not sure if they can provide these tags, please have them contact their regional PDA veterinarian for guidance. You may be charged for the RFID tag as they are not free to the veterinarians. The veterinarian will record all information on the ownership of the pig and if a disease is detected in the pig he/she will be able to identify that the pig came from you and you will have to let USDA veterinarians know where you purchased the pigs. It is much simpler to start your swine project with an RFID tag in the pig’s ear at the time of purchase.

Never place two RFID tags in the pig’s ear. If the pig already has an RFID 840 tag in its ear that is the tag that must be used to identify the animal. If your fair is supplying RFID 840 tags and your animal already has one in the ear from the breeder your fair must use the one placed in the ear by the breeder. Placing a second tag in the ear makes it very hard to read with the wand and will again hinder location of the original owner if a disease outbreak would occur. Non RFID tags provided by the fair can be placed in the ear and will not hinder the reading of the RFID 840 tag.

RFID tags have been used in cattle for years and are required at all major shows. It is a method of permanent identification that can be read by an RFID reader or wand and can be read from a short distance. It is illegal to remove a tag. If, however, the animal loses a tag which sometimes does happen, you will need to go back to the original owner for a replacement. If that is impossible you can ask your veterinarian to supply a tag if they are willing to do so. Normally the original owner is happy to supply the tag.

With African Swine Fever rampant across the world it is only a matter of when, and not if the disease will make its way to the United States. The disease, if it does arrive, would devastate the pork industry in the USA and would eliminate many pork producers thus limiting the amount of pork available in the grocery stores. To avoid this crisis and many others we all need to do our part to help insure swift and correct tracking to limit the spread of the disease. You can do your part as a producer or junior swine member by utilizing RFID tags as a means of identifying hogs in the marketplace.

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