Animal Identification
Predation Management in Livestock Farming

Ear tags for identification.
All cattle, sheep, goats, ostriches, pigs and horses have to be branded with an identification mark, according to the Animal Identification Act (Act 6 of 2002). Animal identification not only makes it easier for owners to recover lost or stolen animals, but also to prosecute stock thieves.


Farmers need to apply for an identification mark from the Registrar of Animal Identification at the National Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The exception is stud breeders, who have to register or record their animals with the South African Stud Book and Livestock Association.
Application forms are available from extension offices, magistrate’s offices, the stock theft units at the South African Police Services and the Registrar of Animal Identification. Applications have to be accompanied by a proof of address – no older than three months.
Once received, it takes roughly two weeks for the Registrar to register the mark on the National Register of Animal Identification System to which only the South African Police Services have access.
The identification mark is unique for each owner and consists of no more than three characters (letters or symbols). No-one may use this identification mark without the owner’s permission. If the mark is transferred to someone else, then the new owner has to apply for the transferal.


©Peter Delaney
See the orange identification tags on the Ostrich necks.
Specific rules exist, regulating the size shape, pattern and composition of the identification marks as well as the manner in which specific parts of the animal may or may not be marked. Tattoos, for example, may not exceed 20 mm in width or height, whereas brand marks should be more than 40 mm and no more than 100 mm wide and high.
According to the National Stock Theft Prevention Forum, animals need to be branded within two weeks after being bought.
Cattle can be tattooed from the age of one month and branded from six months. They need to be branded by the time their first pair of permanent incisors appear (two-tooth stage). The tattoo may be placed on either ear, while any visible part of the body, except for the neck, may be branded. Farmers should take care not to brand parts of the body that may have a negative impact on the value of the hide.
Small stock, such as sheep and goats, as well as pigs, should be tattooed by one month of age, with the tattoo being placed on either ear.
Ostriches can be tattooed under their wings, from one month up to six months of age. They may be branded from six months on the outer side of their thighs. The brand or tattoo may only have two characters, with brands being placed 6 mm apart, either next to or below each other and tattoo characters being placed next to each other.
Horses may be tattooed from six months and branded from twelve months of age.

By Glenneis Kriel