Animal identification is necessary for records, registration, and proof of ownership. If you have few goats with distinctive markings, you may think you can identify them sufficiently by sight. Identification is very helpful for goat breeds with more uniform coloring such as Saanens, Toggenburgs, Oberhaslis, and many Boers. Registered goats are required to have permanent identification.
There are several methods of identification. Most breed registries require a tattoo which is fairly permanent, but inconvenient to read. Ear tags are often used on meat goats, but may be lost, especially if the animal is worked in crowded or brushy areas. Some cattle people use ear tags with radio frequency identification (RFID) chip built into the tag. Although RFID chips are inserted under the skin in dogs and other animals, they are prohibited from being used in food animals by the FDA because they might migrate to other body locations and endanger human food products. In Europe, RFID chips are encased in a ceramic bolus, which is inserted into the rumen. These have been shown to be very effective, but are not approved in the U.S. An electronic reader is required to read RFID chips, but the tags have numbers which can be read visually if a reader is not available.
If you are in the Scrapie eradication program, an official Scrapie tag is required to be placed in the ear. Currently, these tags are provided free by the national eradication program; they must remain in the ear. The tag has a number of digits, though. Some dairy goat producers use tags on plastic chains around a goat’s neck. A plastic chain is used so that if the chain gets caught, it will break instead of choking the goat. Another method of goat identification is to use ear notches. The format is different from the swine format and can be found at http://www.luresext.edu/goats/training/management.html#ear .
There are a number of methods for temporary animal identification. These include spray chalk, colored spray (such as purple wound spray), and wax marking crayons. Paint branding is used a little—this involves a miniature numbered branding-iron set which is used to transfer a special paint to the animals’ body. [Goat ID]
As part of the scrapie eradication program, producers of all goat herds are encouraged to obtain a premises identification number. Although this is currently voluntary, in the future, all herds may be required to have a premises identification number for their facility as part of the National Animal Identification System. Sheep and goat producers may call 1-866-UDSA-TAG for information on how to obtain a herd identification number and to obtain individual ID tags for sheep and goats. For more information, contact your state or Cooperative Extension veterinarian, or visit http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/animal_diseases/scrapie/.