Transponder failure has been one of the biggest complaints about electronic identification or “sorting” systems on dairies. Typically, when a cow enters the parlor with a non-working transponder, all milk weights for her side of the parlor are lost, says Steve Eicker, a veterinarian and director of research and development with Valley Ag Software, King Ferry, N.Y. For example, in a double-40 parlor, three non-working transponders would cause 60 milk weights to be lost.

Most manufacturers guarantee individual transponders to work for five years. However, transponders don’t all fail at the same time. On a large-scale dairy, this could mean weekly failures.

Producers can solve this problem, by regularly checking the transponders of cows. Eicker recommends that once a week, you program all cows to be sorted when leaving the parlor. By switching a few gates, you can have these animals walk through the sorting area and back to their pen. However, animals whose transponders are not working will be detained. You can then examine and replace faulty transponders.