Insider's Guide to Livestock Identification

As a producer, when you're dealing with livestock, you must Identify your animals, for your farm's financial help, as well as internal record keeping. A concise identification system is a must.

As a producer, when you're dealing with livestock, you must Identify your animals, for your farm's financial help, as well as internal record keeping. A concise identification system is a must. However, there are many ways to go about creating an identification system, and most producers actually use more than one at the same time. This is mainly done to create backup systems so in case one system fails they have more than one way to identify the livestock. For example; if an ear tag gets ripped out because an animal got stuck in a fence, the producer also has the animal tattooed so that they know where this animal belongs on the farm, and if it's their animal.

Unique identification is necessary if the producer wishes to register purebred animals with breed registries or exhibit them at most livestock shows. Additionally, proper livestock identification enables producers to keep comprehensive records for milk production, reproduction cycles, health problems as well as farm management best practices. To properly coordinate this information in the most efficient system possible a permanent identification system is needed.

Permanent and Non-Permanent Livestock ID

There are several systems of identification that can be used when ID-ing livestock. It all depends on different situational factors, such as the size of the herd, the environment that the animals live in, the purpose for the identification, and the rules and regulations surrounding the breed registries and shows that the producer attends and equipment that is available to them.

Additionally, there are two kinds of livestock identification; permanent and non-permanent. Most breed associations along with most shows require some form of permanent identification. This is usually done through a visible form of identification, such as plastic or metal ear tags. An example of a non-permanent form of identification could be chalk, paint, or stick on tags, and this is usually done when an animal is a lot number at an auction. 

One method that is often used for permanent identification is tattooing. However, because it is not easily viewed, it is often accompanied by a more visible form of identification like the above mentioned ear tags. On cattle, tattoo ink is usually applied to the ear using special pliers that puncture the skin along with ink that is pushed under the skin to outline numbers and symbols. This can be done with light and dark-skinned livestock as ink can come in several different shades and colors for easy reading. 

Another method is using ear tags for visible identification. Flexible plastic ear tags are the most widely used form of livestock identification. With this form of livestock ID, legibility and retention are the most important things to consider. A producer may purchase preprinted tags or choose to write their own numbers on the tags. Additionally, self-locking metal tags are used often in addition to the plastic ear tags. These metal tags can be used for livestock identification purposes and are also used by vets and other animal health officers to monitor health or disease issues in animals.

Finally, there are electronic ID tags, or EID. This is becoming more and more common of a tool for producers to identify their livestock. However, this system does require a computer setup. While this ID system is currently in its infancy, there are likely to be advances in the coming years.

For more than 85 years,
we have been making INSIDER'S GUIDE TO LIVESTOCK IDENTIFICATION every year for customers nationwide.

Our INSIDER'S GUIDE TO LIVESTOCK IDENTIFICATION meet and exceed expectations, which is why our customers come back again and again.


We operate on a traditional work week Monday through Friday 8:00am - 4:30pm. During that time one of our friendly staff will be happy to help you.