USDA to require most cattle to have electronic ear tags

Posted on September 29, 2019 3:48 PM


The federal government will require most Kentucky cattle to bear a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag in the next few years, the Kentucky Office of the State Veterinarian has announced.

“By 2023, only RFID tags will be considered official identification,” State Veterinarian Robert C. Stout said. “The U.S. Department of Agriculture is requiring the RFID tags and phasing out metal tags to improve our ability to trace animal movement quickly and efficiently in the event of a livestock disease outbreak. A strong traceability system is absolutely essential to maintaining open overseas markets for Kentucky and U.S. cattle.”

“The Kentucky Department of Agriculture will work with producers and industry organizations to help with a speedy and orderly transition to RFID ear tags,” Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said. “In the weeks and months to come, we will be speaking to industry groups and passing out informational materials to help producers make the switch. As we get updates from USDA, we will pass them along to Kentucky producers.”

“We appreciate the Kentucky Department of Agriculture for being proactive in getting the word out about this important cattle identification transition,” said Dave Maples, executive director of the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association. “The transition from metal to RFID tags will strengthen the traceability system by providing information faster and protecting our markets in the event of a disease outbreak.”

The timeline for completing the transition to RFID tags is as follows:

·         Dec. 31, 2019 – Free metal National Uniform Ear Tag System tags no longer will be provided by USDA and KDA. Producers and markets may purchase and apply metal tags in 2020.

·         Jan. 1, 2021 – USDA no longer will approve production or application of metal tags.

·         Jan. 1, 2023 – RFID ear tags will be required for beef and dairy cattle and bison moving interstate.

Animals that will require official, individual RFID tags include:

·         Beef cattle and bison that are sexually intact and 18 months or older;

·         Beef cattle and bison used for rodeo or recreational events (regardless of age);

·         Beef cattle and bison used for shows or exhibitions;

·         All female dairy cattle; and

·         All male dairy cattle born after March 11, 2013.

Cattle not being moved off the farm will not be required to have an RFID tag.

“In effect, all cattle presented for sale at Kentucky livestock markets will be considered to be moving interstate,” Dr. Stout said. “All animals requiring official ID will be required to have an RFID tag.”

A premises identification number (PIN) is required to purchase official ID tags. To get a PIN, contact Rayna Warford, the KDA’s animal disease traceability coordinator, at or (502) 782-5905.

For more information, contact Rayna Warford or email USDA at


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