USDA Announces Intent to Pursue Rulemaking on RFID Use in Animal Disease Traceability

Dan Cattle, USDA

By Daz Stock/Shutterstock

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) announced Tuesday that after reviewing 944 public comments on a July 2020 notice that proposed to approve Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) as the official ear tag for use in the interstate movement of cattle, they have decided to use the rulemaking process for future activities related to this proposal. This means that the original notice will not be finalized and that all current APHIS-approved methods of identification may be used as official identification until further notice.

APHIS notes they continue to believe that RFID tags will provide the cattle industry with the best protection against the rapid spread of animal diseases and will therefore continue to encourage the use of RFID tags while rulemaking is pending.

An official ear tag is defined as an identification tag approved by APHIS that bears an official identification number for individual animals. Under the current regulations, ear tags may be used as official identification, and both visual-only metal and plastic tags, as well as RFID tags, are current options.


The animal disease traceability (ADT) regulations for cattle apply only to sexually intact beef animals over 18 months of age moving in interstate commerce, cattle used for exhibition, rodeo, and recreational events, and all dairy cattle. The regulations permit brands and tattoos as acceptable identification if the shipping and receiving States agree and group/lot identification when a group/lot identification number (GIN) may be used.

APHIS will provide updates about efforts related to ADT and the use of RFID tags, and notes there will be opportunities for public comments during the rulemaking process.