Tracking and Tracing Cattle

Innovation Practice

The Australian cattle industry enjoys an excellent reputation globally for tracking the movement and status of animals. We were asked to work deeply with industry stakeholders to develop superior tracking technologies to address data quality and compliance.


Head of cattle in Australia (2018)


Yearly cost to industry due to ear tag loss


Avoided cost in event of foot and mouth disease outbreak, if traceability is increased from 97% to 99%

About the project

A successful livestock traceability system is necessary for mitigating biosecurity and food safety risks and for compliance with international market access requirements. Animal identification is central to such systems. In Australia, ear tags containing RFID devices (approved by the National Livestock Identification System) are typically applied to cattle on farm. However, official data we've analysed from 2004 to 2018 indicates replacement of defective and lost tags cost the industry nearly $10m/yr. AI was engaged by Integrity Systems Company (ISC) to develop new and innovative business cases to deal with the issue of cattle ear tag retention as well as compliance issues related to suboptimal performance of a traceability system - user friction.

The problem

The problem is complex with differing experiences of the same system across the country and in adjacent supply chains. Some supply chain participants report minimal issues with tag loss including contacts in Victoria for example. However, our research has revealed loss of tags increases with cattle age, with significant levels of failure by 5 years in some contexts. Bump loads and ear flicking loads combined with long-term environmental exposure are the likely causes of failure in tags we have collected and analysed. This incurs replacement costs, labour to muster cattle and re-apply tags, and loss of farm management data. Even small reductions in traceability in the Australian cattle industry represent very significant risks in terms of costs associated with disease outbreaks or food safety concerns. Additionally, the true value of the ID platform for management is not being realised by many producers because of friction in the use of the system.

The solution

Using human-centred design, cutting-edge innovation methods and deep commercialisation expertise, AI gained insights into the problem. Detailed supply chain mapping and exploration were undertaken to identify how to reduce tag loss and friction while improving data quality. Three concepts were generated and then developed iteratively to identify solutions that were feasible, desirable, viable and scalable. In conjunction with ISC, AI is developing a path forward for one concept to eliminate tag loss that will be implementable within 18 months. This concept has progressed from prototyping to preparation for animal trials, user testing and further development to improve retention, reduce end-user friction and bolster the red meat integrity system.