NRT Trading is trialling a cattle microchip, never before used in Africa, which will revolutionise the Livestock to Markets Programme and benefit thousands of pastoralists in northern Kenya.
The NRT Trading Livestock to Markets (LTM) Programme bought over 2,360 cattle from 10 different conservancies in 2014. Identifying each animal bought is vital to prove ownership, measure performance, monitor disease and medication, and access information about age, breeding and origin. But traditional methods of identification include hot iron branding, paint marks, and ear tags, each of which is subject to a number of challenges. Paint comes off, ear tags can be tampered with, and hot iron branding can become illegible. Reading and recording a given identification number is also subject to a large amount of human error, as notes from the field have to be manually transferred to a computer database.
In response to these challenges, NRT have been trialling an electronic identification (e-id) system with LTM partners, Ol Pejeta Conservancy. The e-id system, currently only in use in the USA and India, is based on a small microchip inserted behind the animal’s ear. This can be read using a specialised scanner. Information is automatically recorded in a database, along with any other desired details, to provide a comprehensive history of the animal and its products. The trial in Ol Pejeta has shown that implementing this system across the entire LTM Programme will save time, money, labour and cut down error margins. Not only that, but the database can be made readily accessible to high-end market customers, providing assurance of the origin and quality of the product and justifying the levy of premium product prices.
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