Cattle Identification: A Brief History
Livestock identification in the United States has been documented in large animal production industries dating back to the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Cattle ranchers, to indicate ownership and deter theft, first used hot iron branding. Swine producers for registration and record keeping purposes used ear notches for individual animal identification. These two methods are rapidly losing popularity due to concerns about humane treatment of animals and a decrease in product value.
APHIS and its predecessor agencies began using ear tags, back tags, tattoos and face brands in the early 1960’s. These identification methods were required by statutory regulations and successfully used to trace the movements of diseased animals during disease outbreaks and eradication programs. With this long history of contact with the field, APHIS has led the way in the development of national identification systems. The agency continues to place a high priority on livestock identification and database development.