For some livestock owners, it can easily become difficult to identify specific animals.  This is especially true when breeding strong family lines, as identifying characteristics can be passed down through genetics.  The only way to overcome this is to properly identify each livestock animal on site.  Although this seems like a lot of work, it is critical to help livestock owners insure the safety of their livestock.

Identifying livestock has more advantages than disadvantages for livestock owners, so the extra record keeping that is necessary is worth the time it takes.  For example, a properly displayed animal identification method is a visual deterrent of theft, as it makes positive proof of ownership much easier.  Not to mention, identification tags make treating individual animals a lot quicker as well.  Using identification marks also makes disease control much easier to manage in our economy where livestock can be transferred from owner to owner so easily.  If we look at Scrapie Disease in sheep, which began to rise due to an increase in interstate movement, it is easy to see how simple federal Scrapies identification tags helped reduce overall outbreaks of the disease.  After the introduction of the Scrapie Tag for individual farms it became very easy for the USDA to track a single sheep that tested positive for the disease back to the original farm just by looking at the Scrapie Tag.  This ability has made it possible to reduce the large scale outbreaks of this devastating disease.  There are also many other diseases that have been controlled via this identification method, so as a country animal identification is a huge asset to the integrity of our livestock industry.  As of February 5, 2010 the USDA announced their new stand on animal disease traceability, which only applies to animals that are moved in interstate commerce, and it is to provide more flexibility for the livestock owners while encouraging the use of lower-cost technology. This ability to trace animal diseases in livestock effectively ensures that a rapid response can be set into action when animal disease events take place.

Although it is easy to see the importance of animal identification, it is up to you to decide which method works best for your operation.  The most common method of identification that is used for livestock is the use of ear tags.  One of the most important benefits of using ear tags is that an individual can purchase personalized ear tags that show both a number to represent the farm and an individual animal number.  The one downfall of using ear tags is that they can tear out if they get caught on something.  Another popular method of animal identification is to use a tattooing system to permanently apply both the farm and/or individual identification number on the animal.  This method is usually preferred when the owners have intentions to show the animals competitively as they do not impact the outward appearance when applied to the inside of the ear.  If you are interested in using other methods to identify your livestock you may want to contact your local vet or local farm store for more information.  If you are concerned about the traceability of your livestock you should contact the USDA for more information.

Shannon Stamper

Shannon Stamper has a B.S. in  Science Education from the University of Wisconsin River Falls.  She has been active with show animals her whole life and started working in Animal Nutrition in 2006.