From Branding to Electronic Tags: How Livestock Identification Has Evolved


As a means of more easily keeping track of animals, as well as marking ownerships, the need for livestock identification arose. Over the years, identification methods have evolved. Learn about some of the earliest methods as well as the most recent evolutions.



Branding has been achieved by many means, but the earliest use was to heat up an iron with the livestock owner’s “mark” and apply it to the animal. Branding livestock can be traced back as far as ancient Egyptian times. Some ranches still use this method to this day.


Another method of branding with an iron is freeze branding, in which an iron has been chilled with dry ice, nitrogen, or another coolant before being applied to the animal. Rather than leaving a scar, freeze branding damages the hair cells responsible for pigment, which turns the animal’s hair color white.



Some livestock are earmarked with pliers. Earmarking is strategically cutting an animal’s ear in specific places to signify information, such as who the owner is or how old the animal is. This method has been around since the 16th century and is still a method used for pigs, cattle, and sheep.


Ear Tags

The earliest ear tag was developed for King George III in 1799. Since then a few different types have been used, such as:

  • Button shaped
  • Flag shaped
  • Metal
  • Plastic clip
  • Electronic

Some of the above are joined through the ear, while others are clipped over it.



Ear tags often have an RFID (radio frequency identification) chip. Containing electronically stored information, the chips are usually passive and only transmit the data when within the range of a reader. This data is then sent to database, where the information can be easily accessed.


From tattoos to microchips to collars and anklets, there are many other forms of identification options used. It will be interesting to see what the future has in store for livestock identification.


The Advantages of RFID Cattle Tags

Cow with yellow ear tag

An RFID system for your cattle is a great way to track your herd, helping you make improvements, expand your profit margins, and comply with government regulations. But without more information, you still might not be sold on RFID tags over the traditional tags that you’ve been using.


Traditional visual tags can get lost or damaged in ways that makes them unusable. The tag can get caught on a fence, get snagged and scratched up by brush, or have other things happen to it. When the tag is lost or unreadable, the identifying information on the tag is lost as well. An RFID tag stores its information electronically, and is small and unlikely to get lost, and so the ID information won’t be lost either.


Manually inspecting each animal and noting its ID information takes a long time, especially if it’s done by hand. Since RFID systems need only 3 to 12 inches between the reader and the tag, it’s much faster to get information on all the cattle that need to be IDed. You can even set up passive checkpoints where the ID of each animal that passes through, such as onto a truck or into a barn, will be scanned.


An RFID reader sends out an electromagnetic field that energizes the RFID coil, which then transmits its data back to the reader. Since the data is handled entirely electronically, human error is all but eliminated.

For more information about RFID tags for your herd, visit /

How to Get Started with RFID


There are several good reasons to use RFID technology on your herd. The bottom line is that if you are serious about improving your herd, raising your profit potential, and complying with federal and state regulations, there is no better investment than an RFID system.

The cattle industry has changed, and not only with regard to accountability. If you are going to offer cattle for consumption in this marketplace, you and they MUST be identified. A bonus to this scenario is that you can retrieve performance information back from industry partners so that you can improve your herd and offer a better product to those partners. The market will show loyalty to producers of quality animals so the cost is small and the return potential is great.

An important consideration in attaching responsibility in the event of a disease outbreak is the ability to verify that you are not responsible for a particular occurrence or that the animals in question did NOT come from your premises.

To get started identifying your herd, contact Sagebrush Tags.

Keeping Track of your Cattle

RFID Tagging


Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tagging, is a system that uses radio waves to wirelessly transmit the identity of an object. In the livestock industry, most RFID tags are considered passive tags, opposed to active, since the tags are only activated when they pass within the transmission field of a reader. The technology of passive tags is the first used in USDA-approved RFID ear tags for cattle. There are four basic components of a RFID system used in animal identification:

Transponder: Electronic identification chip embedded the tag which is activated when it passes through the transmission field of a reader

Reader/Transceiver: Retrieves the information stored in the transponder

Data Accumulator: Any device such as a laptop that is capable of receiving data from the reader

Processing Software: Transforms accumulated data to useful information

Sagebrush Tags offers a wide range of animal identification products including ear tags, RFID systems, insecticide ear tags, ear tag applicators as well as custom printed ear tags.



What is RFID?


RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification Device, and refers to a small electronic chip and antennae used to identify and track objects.  RFID uses radio waves to read and capture identifying numerical data stored on a tag, which is attached to an object.  Identification tags are commonly used on household pets, livestock, clothing, and even automobiles.

Benefits of RFID on Livestock

RFID is safe to use on animals and increasingly popular for tracking livestock.  Additional benefits of using RFID on livestock is that it provides proof of origin, amongst others.

Contact Sagebrush Tags to learn more about how RFID can protect your livestock investments.

How To Deal With Swarming Insects


Why You Should Use Insecticide on Cattle

Cattle are constantly bombarded with flies while roaming the fields. While it may not seem like a huge deal at first, biting flies carry diseases such as bovine leucosis virus. These afflictions affect the quality of beef when it comes time to slaughter them.

Applying insecticides onto your livestock will keep them healthy and even promote weight gain. 227 Y-Tex studies taken place from 1995 to 2013 showed an average calf weight gain increase of 41.2 pounds. Based on these numbers, a $1 investment in Y-Tex insecticide tags will yield a $20 return or more.

Sage Brush Tags offer Y-Tex ear tag products including the XP820 fly tag and the Python strip. Remember to rotate between insecticides so that flies do not adapt to them. Shop now at Sagebrush Tags.

Tracking made easier and faster


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Life Chips

A microchip is an integrated circuit that is about the size of a grain of rice and is implanted under the skin of pets or livestock. They are an alternative to and offers more functionality than traditional ID tags. Microchips can be used for the following:

  • Track lost or stolen livestock
  • Provide proof of identity
  • Detect internal temperature
  • Help identify potential diseases or other foreign substances
  • Check whether or not cattle are in heat
  • Easily manage your herd

Sagebrush Tags offer a variety of microchips such as the Destron Life Chip with bio-thermal technology. Click here to shop for microchips today.

Welcome to Sagebrush Tags’ Blog!


This is your one-stop shop for all things identification related. This blog will feature products, news, updates, and topics all related to identification and tagging purposes. Ear tags have a variety of uses besides tagging animals.

Sagebrush Tags are commonly used on plant life, equipment, scientific research, tracking, and more.


A small family-owned business that thrives on fair prices and excellent customer service. They offer products like Visual ID Ear tags, USDA 840 tags, Insecticide tags, EID/RFID tags, RFID Readers, Microchips, Taggers/Applicators, Metal Ear tags, tagging accessories and more. Sagebrush Tags specializes in custom tag imprinting and is ready to meet your tagging needs. Call 1.888.819.8782 for more information or visit Sagebrush Tags’ website to order now.