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RFID May Be Key To Finding Latest Mad Cow Case

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency identified at least the seventh case of mad cow disease in the country since 2003, and U.S. livestock experts attribute the quick findings to technology. The agency confirmed Thursday another case of mad cow disease in an Alberta animal.

The Canadian government several years ago created the Canadian Cattlemen's Identification Association to implement a national ID program. The association oversees radio frequency identification tag distribution and manages a database of information on livestock.

"We know there's mad cow out there," said Richard Cronce, executive director of new business development at the Holstein Association USA, a nonprofit consortium of more than 35,000 dairy producers. "Canada seems to have a very aggressive testing procedure, and the U.S. needs to step up the process. The fact they managed to find so many isn't based on luck."

Taking steps to protect the food supply in the United States, companies have begun designing systems that monitor the health of cattle. IBM Corp. and TekVet, a division of Colt Technologies LLC, Thursday launched a hosted system based on active RFID.

An RFID sensor called TekSensor inserted in the ear of a cow collects the information from up to 500 feet, and sends the data wirelessly to receiving stations on a cattleman's ranch. A private satellite network transmits the information to TekVet's data center hosted by IBM, processing information for millions of cattle.

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