The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

New USDA-APHIS identification for Beef Cattle


September 25, 2019

New rules regarding beef cattle identification begin 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 beef animals that are sexually intact and 18 months or older, beef animals used for rodeo or recreational events (regardless of age), or beef animals used for shows or exhibitions.

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.

RFID tags will be expensive. 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. 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. Metal 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.

Information for this article came from Megan Van Emon (MSU Extension Beef Cattle Specialist). Megan’s article is available online at:

Montana State University U.S. Department of Agriculture and Montana Counties Cooperating. MSU Extension is an equal opportunity/affirmative action provider of educational outreach.

Our Apologies to the N Hanging 5 Ranch, Spring Coulee Ranch, Gordon Muir and The Red Flame Ranch per Chouteau County Fair 4-H and FFA Results

Our apologies for the error in the Chouteau County Fair 4-H and FFA results, which were posted in the paper a couple of weeks ago. When listing the resale results, we listed only the original buyers who purchased livestock from the members and then donated the animals back for resale. The corrected information is below. The proceeds from the original sale go to the members and proceeds from the resale will be disbursed to the fund designated by the original buyer.

The N Hanging 5 Ranch of Fort Benton donated $570 to the 4-H council and $630 to the building fund for bleachers; Spring Coulee Ranch of Highwood donated $535 to the building fund; Gordon Muir of Geraldine donated $190 to the building fund; and The Red Flame Ranch of Fort Benton donated $2137 to the building fund. Thank you to these buyers who generously donated to these funds.


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