USDA starts rolling out animal identification numbers

Published on April 15, 2006
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The Department of Agriculture has announced plans to begin allocating animal identification numbers under the National Animal Identification System.

The long-term goal of the voluntary system is to provide health officials with the capability to identify production animals and premises that have had direct contact with a disease of concern within 48 hours after discovery.

The initial animal identification numbers will be for cattle, which typically have ear tags for official identification. Animal identification numbers will eventually extend to species that have other forms of identification, such as implants.

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has also adopted an option to allow for the integration of supplemental identification methods or technologies into the identification tag, such as radiofrequency identification and biometrics. For cattle, APHIS supports integrating radiofrequency identification into the ear tag.

Each tag will feature a U.S. shield and a 15-digit animal identification number starting with 840, the country code for the United States. The tags must remain functional throughout the lifetime of the animal, and manufacturers will need to apply for approval from the USDA.

The first phase of the National Animal Identification System was to begin implementing premises identification numbers to register premises that house production animals. Industry is working with APHIS on the final phase, which will be to build a database to track the movement of animals among premises.

Details about the animal identification numbers are available online at