Cattle Identification

Note: Federal rule changes are currently on hold to require electronic official identification for cattle and bison ​required to be identified when moving interstate.

More information is available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture at https://www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/animal_health/traceability.pdf​.

Summary of Wisconsin Cattle Official ID Requirements 

In general cattle staying on the farm in Wisconsin are not required to be officially identified. Exceptions include:

  • Vaccination against Johne’s disease or brucellosis
  • Testing for tuberculosis, Johnes disease, brucellosis, or pseudorabies
  • Rare instances when directed to by state or federal animal health officials

In general cattle moving only within Wisconsin are not required to be officially identified. Exceptions include:

  • Individual sales, shows, fairs, exhibits, etc. may require animals attending the event to be officially identified.
  • Markets and dealers have requirements to officially identify certain classes of cattle. Markets usually do not require sellers to have the animals identified prior to arrival at the market.

In general cattle of all ages moving interstate into Wisconsin are required to be officially identified. Exceptions include:

  • Beef steers from most states unless they are coming to a show, exhibition, rodeo, or recreational event in which case they do still need ID. Beef steers from states with ongoing tuberculosis investigations are also required to be officially identified. Contact the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) for up to date requirements if importing animals. 

In general, cattle of all ages moving interstate out of Wisconsin are required to be officially identified. Exceptions include:

  • Federal rule exempts beef steers and spayed heifers (unless going to a show, exhibition, rodeo, or recreational event) from needing official identification. However, some states may require identification for this class of animals. Check with the state of destination for their requirements.
  • Federal rule exempts intact beef cattle under 18 months of age (unless going to a show, exhibition, rodeo, or recreational event) from needing official identification. However, some states may require identification for this class of animals. Check with the state of destination for their requirements.

Official identification for cattle includes:

  • National Uniform Eartagging System (NUES) eartags: These are usually silver or orange metal clip tags that have the format 35 (state two-digit code) ABC 1234. These tags applied after March 11, 2015, are required to bear the U.S. Shield. Tags applied prior to this date that do not have the U.S. Shield are not required to be replaced. Plastic NUES tags are also available.
  • 840 tags: These are visual only or radio frequency identification (RFID) tags that have a 15-digit number, the first three of which are 840. These tags should all have the U.S. Shield. 15-digit tags with the first three digits of 124 are official tags for animals originating in Canada. These are recognized as official ID and should not be removed or replaced.
  • American ID if applied prior to March 11, 2015: These are visual tags that have USA followed by an 8-12 digit number. If tagged with these tags prior to March 11, 2015, cattle are considered officially identified and the tag does not need to be replaced.
  • Manufacturer coded RFID tags if applied prior to March 11, 2015: These are RFID tags that contain a 15-​digit number starting with the manufacturer’s three-digit code in the 900 series. If tagged with these tags prior to March 11, 2015, cattle are considered officially identified and the tag does not need to be replaced.​