Race Reader Keeps Cattle Moving

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

 

The ability to identify slaughter animals with potential disease or residue issues on arrival at the processing plant  - rather than later in the process when they can cause greater disruptions to plant operations - is the key to a new animal ID technology demonstration pilot site.

Demonstrated to industry stakeholders in Brisbane recently was a high-flow dual race lairage reader installed at Australian Country Choice's (ACC) Cannon Hill meatworks. ACC is a large domestic export processor responsible for two thirds of Coles Supermarkets' national beef requirements, as well as exporting into a range of customer countries in Asia and elsewhere.

           

Developed as an industry demonstration site, the lairage reader installation represented a collaborative effort involving ACC, animal ID technology companyALEIS, and Meat & Livestock Australia.  Currently, many abattoirs read National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) devices on animals at point of slaughter or further down the killfloor chain. Occasionally, a body presents without a radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag or being identified through the NLIS database as being sourced from a property with a disease or residue risk status. When the animal is detected, action is required by the abattoir to guarantee the relevant testing, isolation, inspection, and if necessary, destruction of the animal.

In a worst case scenario, such as processing stock for the EU market, can mean stopping the kill and carrying out a thorough clean-down of the environment before operations can recommence.  However, by reading stock as they arrive off the road transport vehicle, intervention can occur much earlier in managing those stock through the system.

Single-lane race readers are already used at some abattoirs to read cattle at the point of unloading, but these have several significant drawbacks.  Australian Meat Industry Council livestock committee chairman, Geoff Teys, said in the case of his own company's Beenleigh plant in southern Queensland, the reading areas at arrival are single-file, single-lane only which greatly slows down the unloading process and requires up to three staff members to operate. For these reasons, the Beenleigh installation is used for EU-accredited cattle only.

However the high-flow dual race reader demonstrated at ACC overcomes many of these limitations.  "Particularly for those abattoirs which read tags further down the slaughter chain, this system has significant advantages," Mr Teys said.

The ACC installation relies on a bank of 16 panel readers and antennae to simultaneously read two lanes — each carrying up to three — of a typical double-deck livestock transport consignment. The design eliminates bottlenecks or unloading disruptions or risk of additional bruising as the area is basically unchanged from ACC's pre-existing receival area layout.  The ultimate design involved livestock, engineering and RFID technology teams working side-by-side to achieve the right outcome.

The project's aim was to achieve 99.54% accuracy in reading RFID devices in cattle arrivals, and this is being regularly surpassed with most killing days in the range from 99.139% to 100%. The only 'non-reads' to date have been found to be due not to the lairage reader's performance, but from animals not carrying a tag or those with faulty tags.

John Finlayson, Manager of ID technology developer ALEIS, said the installation at ACC was challenging in a number of ways.

The basic aim was to achieve high rates of RFID device reading accuracy while delivering no disruptions to normal double-deck unloading operations. He said by their nature, abattoirs were difficult environments for RFID tag reading applications because of extensive radio frequency interference caused by nearby electric motors. This required close analysis of the surrounding site at ACC in order to identify problem areas and isolate or insulate 'noisy' motors.
 



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