Ask the Vet

State Import Rules Guide For Livestock

Identification protocols is especially challenging for the livestock industry. (Progressive Farmer image by Chris Clayton)


We ship cattle to different states several times a year, and it's getting harder and harder to know what the testing requirements are in advance and what is an official ID. All the states are different, and they seem to change all the time. Why can't we come up with one set of rules for all states?


I feel your pain. States' livestock rules to protect against disease can vary widely and are based on the unique needs of that industry and the people there. Identification is an especially challenging issue because we have no mandatory national system. (By the way, that fact scares the willies out of me when I think about some sort of foreign disease outbreak. But, that is a discussion for another day.)

There is a good web site hosted by the United States Animal Health Association and the National Institute for Animal Agriculture: This gives you "quick, accurate access to state import requirements for livestock." It's easy to use and a great new tool.

With regards to a universally accepted ID for cattle, the only ones we currently have use the office of USDA metal tags (silver "brite" tags or the OCV/Bangs orange tags), or the official "840 tag." Some states accept tattoos and brands under certain conditions.

The 840 tags are commercially available and comply with the requirements of Animal Disease Traceability (ADT). They require a premises ID number at purchase. Each tag contains 15 digits, beginning with the numbers 840 (the USA country code). The remaining 12 digits on the tag are unique to the individual animal. These tags come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors, and can be visual (EID) or electronic (RFID).