USDA Metal Tags and Record Keeping
The Minnesota Board of Animal Health is now offering free U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) metal ear tags to farmers for use in cattle and bison. By using official ID and keeping accurate records, you can help us ensure a more efficient, quick response during disease investigations. The quicker we can do our job, the better we can protect the health of your livestock and Minnesota’s agriculture industry.
Guidelines for application of official ear tags in cattle and bison
Once USDA metal ear tags are distributed, these ear tags become the responsibility of the farmer that requested the tags. To ensure traceability in a disease investigation, it is important that these official tags be used only for cattle and bison within Minnesota.
Where are the USDA metal ear tags applied and what if an animal already has one?
The tags should be placed in the right ear of cattle and bison without an existing USDA metal tag in either ear. If the animal already has an official tag, record the tag number in your records. Never double tag. Federal law prohibits removing official ear tags from livestock. Visit the Official ID for cattle and bison page to see a diagram on proper tag placement.
When should the USDA tags be applied and which animals need to be identified?
In the future, all cattle/bison will need to be tagged before leaving their birth farm, except:
- Steers or spayed heifers
- Feeding heifers of beef breed less than 18 months of age
- Feeding bulls less than 10 months of age
- Animals shipped directly to slaughter or to a state or state-federal market in Minnesota
What records should be kept?
When applying a tag, keep a record of:
- Date of tagging and brief description of animal including sex, age, and purpose (feeding or breeding)
- USDA ear tag number and other ID such as bangle tag
When selling an animal, keep a record of:
- Date sold and name and address of who the animal was sold to
- USDA ear tag number of animal, unless it is a steer or a beef breed feeder heifer less than 18 months
When acquiring an animal, keep a record of:
- Date acquired and name and address of the person from whom you received the animal
- Any official ear tag present on the animal
Is there a particular format for record-keeping?
You can keep track of this information on your existing business records. Paper or electronic records are acceptable. A downloadable electronic inventory worksheet is available in MS Word and MS Excel formats.
What should be done with these records?
Maintain records in a safe, secure location. All records must be kept for five years. Copies of records will not need to be provided to the Board, however, during disease investigations or to ensure official ID numbers and movements are being recorded, the Board may request to see your records or system of keeping records.
How are tags ordered?
USDA metal tags can be obtained by calling the Board or by ordering on-line. Allow two weeks for delivery.
What if a farmer no longer has cattle or bison but has leftover tags?
Call the Board at 651-296-2942 and we will work with you to get the tags returned to us. To ensure that traceability is maintained, please do not give them away.