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Chapter 2 - Identification
2.1 Identification of livestock

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This section describes the general identification procedures for livestock, official Identification, and record keeping.


1. Livestock identification is a cornerstone on which the National Animal Health Program is based. The ability to accurately identify and trace the movement of livestock cannot be overstated. It is essential to maintaining and ensuring a healthy livestock population.

2. Accredited veterinarians are an integral part of this process. Accredited veterinarians may mark or cause an animal to be marked with a tag or in other such manner as the Minister may direct so as to identify the animal. This would include, but is not limited to, livestock inspected or tested for export, disease eradication programs, or herd certification programs. The accredited veterinarian must carefully record the identity of animal(s) they inspect or test in the course of performing their official duties and functions. Records of animals identified are the only means of tracing diseased animals to the location where they were identified. The following information should be recorded:

  1. species
  2. breed
  3. sex
  4. age
  5. tags, tattoos, leg bands, brands or electronic implants
  6. colour or markings
  7. registration numbers (if purebreds)

3. In the case of purebred animals, the information on the registration/pedigree certificates must be verified for animals being identified as purebred on a health certificate or test chart.

Official identification

4. Three official animal identification systems have been approved by the CFIA:

  1. Tags or indicators approved (or considered equivalent) under the Livestock Identification and Traceability (TRACE) program;
  2. Health of Animals (HofA) ear tag for species not covered by mandatory national identification requirements;
  3. legible registered tattoos.

Species with national mandatory identification requirements (bovine, bison, ovine and porcine) which are tested or inspected for export or entry into a semen collection centre must be identified with an ear tag or other indicator approved under the TRACE program. Approved tags will bear the trade mark of a responsible administrator: Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA) or Canadian Pork Council (CPC). Approved tags delivered by Agri-traçabilité Québec (ATQ) will bear a fleur-de-lis marking as well.

Foreign animal indicators deemed equivalent by the CFIA to indicators approved under the Canadian livestock identification and traceability program are considered to be approved under the Health of Animals Regulations.

The following species are not subject to national mandatory identification requirements for the moment: caprine, equine, cervids, camelidae and avian. Those species may be identified by their description (equine), microchips (camelidae, equine, avian), leg or wing bands (avian), HofA (caprine) or registered tattoo for domestic purposes.

Reference to specific export identification requirements may be contained on the export certificate for the species being exported. Consult with the district veterinarian for details.

HofA ear tags

5. When "HofA" ear tags are used, they must be inserted in an animal's left ear. These tags come in two sizes. The larger one is used to identify cattle, elk and bison. The smaller one is used to identify sheep, goats, pigs, and deer.

  1. Ensure that the proper size is used.
  2. Ear tags are available to accredited veterinarians through CFIA district offices.
  3. Ear tags should be placed in the proximal third of the anterior border of the animal's ear. The alpha-numeric sequence must face "out." That is, the number should appear on the dorsal surface of the ear. When inserting an ear tag, always leave a small space between the edge of the ear and the outer margins of the tag. The district veterinarian will demonstrate the proper technique if clarification is required.


6. Exceptions: a "HofA" ear tag should not be applied:

  1. on species covered by national mandatory identification requirements, unless the test or inspection is done for disease control or herd certification purpose with no intended movement out of the farm of the origin (please verify if other provincial identification requirements apply in these situations before using a HofA tag).
  2. if an animal bears a legible tattoo, in accordance with a recognized registered breed association, if this method is acceptable for the purpose of identification (could be acceptable for the CHAH herd program, but not for export to some countries).
  3. if an animal bears a HofA ear tag or an ear tag or indicator approved under the TRACE program, which may compromise the ability to trace the animal.
  4. to identify horses. Horses are to be identified by describing the animal, diagram, freeze brand or lip tattoo (see 2.2 Identification of Horses).

Record keeping and administration

7. "HofA" ear tags are identified in alpha-numeric sequence and are distributed by the CFIA in boxes containing 100 tags. The tag numbers issued to each accredited veterinarian are recorded in an ear tag registry maintained at the district office.

8. Accredited veterinarians must maintain a record of the ear tags issued to them, including where and when they were used. These records are to be maintained for a minimum of 10 years. As previously mentioned, records of animals identified are the only means of tracing diseased animals to the location where they were tagged. It is imperative, therefore, that orderly records of animal identification be maintained in a safe location.

9. Accredited veterinarians may return the unused tags to the district office if they do not expect to use them anymore in the future. The return of these tags must be indicated in the record.

10. Tags approved under the TRACE program are issued and records are maintained by responsible administrators. For more information: Canadian Cattle Identification Agency, Agri-Traçabilité Québec or Canadian Pork Council

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