It is a federal crime to allow goats to leave your property without proper identification. You read that right….FEDERAL CRIME. Uncle Sam cares about what you do with your goats. Now, does that mean the folks in the dark panel van are going to round up non-compliant goat owners and throw them in Prison Block G (for goats, get it?)? No, probably not. However, the USDA needs a way to track some scary livestock diseases, and the best way to do that is to make sure that goats are properly ID’d before they leave your property. You also need to keep a record of where these critters go when they leave your farm. Proper identification is required if you want a CVI (health certification), TB, or Brucellosis test for your goat. So what is “Proper ID”? I’m glad you asked, because the powers that be are beginning to change the rules. Here is what we currently know. There are two ways to identify your goats:
Registry Tattoos: Great news! If your animal is registered and tattooed with the sequence assigned by the registry, that’s good enough. Unless the goat is going to Virginia, because Virginia may be for lovers, but apparently not goat lovers. More on that later. You also need your registration certificate (the one with the seal), or the receipt received from the registry when you submitted the registration application. Also – NEWS FLASH – just because your goat is registered does NOT mean it is tattooed. It is your responsibility to go out to the barn with your flashlight and make sure your goats have the tattoos that match what is on the registry paperwork. Keep in mind that tattoos fade with time, and some goats seem to metabolize the ink like Usain Bolt on speed. Before purchasing a registered goat, make sure the breeder has tattooed it. Before selling a registered goat born on your farm, make sure you have tattooed it. If you do not have a tattoo outfit, or tattooing makes you squeamish, contact your vet or your goat community.
SCRAPIES Program Flock ID, or Premise ID Number(PIN): This number sequence is assigned by the USDA and linked in their database to your farm. It needs to be on your animal permanently, and I will cover those options next. If you haven’t been assigned this number yet, please check out USDA APHIS. FYI, this site also has handy links to help you find ID tags and Microchips. Here are the ways you can ID your animal:
Scrapies ID Tag (AKA the old way): This method is still perfectly acceptable, although be aware that there is a push toward electronic identification as we move into the future. It is a federal crime to remove a Scrapies ID tag.
Permanent collar with affixed tag: This is not your typical goat collar. This collar has to be riveted shut and cannot be removed from the animal once applied. The USDA came up with this idea, but goat owners may find it impractical as goats are known to have lots of neck circumference growth throughout their lifetimes. I do not recommend this option.
RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) Options:
Microchips: In theory, these sound like a great idea. The goat registries like them AND the USDA likes them. However, there is a lot of requirements that go along with the chips. First of all, you need an 840 RFID chip. That is the only kind the USDA can recognize. It basically puts an 840 numerical prefix on your PIN. The microchip needs to be injected behind the right ear, and then an “E” tattoo needs to be placed in the ear to alert people to the presence of a microchip. That’s right – microchipping the animal does NOT get you out of tattooing, AND this potentially adulterates any existing registry tattoos. If the animal crosses state lines, a chip reading device needs to be sent with the animal; those are not cheap.
RFID Ear Tags: RFID 840 ear tags are not only scannable, but the number is printed on the tag. There are a number of styles available, but this vet prefers the low-profile, button-style tag. They are unobtrusive, comfortable for the animal, and very unlikely to be caught on anything. At about $2.00 apiece, they are pretty affordable for small herds. In my opinion, these are currently the BEST RFID option.
And finally, a word about Virginia. If you are sending an animal to Virginia, be aware that they do not accept registry tattoos as identification. The animal needs to be tagged with one of the above options.