There are new rules regarding beef cattle identification beginning on January 1, 2020.  The new rules transition the use of metal tags to radio frequency identification (RFID) tags.  The goal of the transition is to improve traceability of livestock in case of disease outbreaks.

Beginning January 1, 2023, beef cattle that move across state lines or that fall into specific categories will require RFID tags.  Currently, feeder cattle and other animals that move directly to slaughter will not require the RFID tags.

Beef animals required to have RFID tags include: sexually intact and 18 months or older, used for rodeo or recreational events (regardless of age), or used for shows or exhibitions.  The tags should be applied at birth or the animal moves off ranch in interstate commerce.

Low- or ultra-high frequency tags may be used depending on the preference of the producer, state, or industry.  Tags need to be approved by the USDA, tamper proof, a unique ID, and display the official US ear tag shield. The RFID tags can be part of a matched set with the visual ID.  RFID tags will also be available to replace the metal, orange brucellosis tags.

There will be an increased cost in utilizing the RFID tags.  The USDA will work with individual state animal health officials to share the cost of the RFID tags.  Additionally, state partners and the USDA will aid in the funding of electronic readers for veterinarians and other markets.

A premises ID number will be required to buy official RFID tags.  Individual states will be responsible for approving and allocating the discounted tags and managing the process.  Veterinarians can continue to inventory and apply the official ID tags, but they must maintain the record keeping requirements.  A list of approved RFID tag manufacturers will be maintained by the USDA.  Veterinarians and producers may purchase the RFID tags directly from the manufacturer or retailer.

Tattoos and brands may continue to be accepted as an official ID, if the shipping and receiving state both agree to accept the markings in place of an RFID tag.

Timeline of Implementation of RFID Tags

December 21, 2019: USDA will stop providing the free metal tags. Approved metal tag vendors may still produce official metal tags for one year.  These tags will be available to purchase from approved vendors on a state-by-state basis, as approved by an authorized state animal health official through December 31, 2020.

January 1, 2021: Metal ear tag production with the official USDA shield will no longer be permitted by the USDA.  Veterinarians and producers cannot apply metal ear tags for official ID and must use the official RFID tags only.

January 1, 2023: RFID tags will be required for beef and dairy cattle and bison moving across state lines and meeting the requirements.  Animals previously tagged with metal ear tags must be retagged with official RFID tags to move interstate.  Feeder cattle and animals moving directly to slaughter are not subject to the RFID requirements.