Animal identification: when to brand livestock

Marking livestock can deter thieves. It is also a legal requirement. Gerhard Uys provides a brief overview of the process.

Animal identification: when to brand livestock
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The Animal Identification Act of 2002 makes it compulsory to mark all livestock. This is the first line of defence against stock theft, as thieves are more likely to steal unmarked animals.

A legal ID mark provides positive proof of ownership, making it possible to trace the owner if the stolen or lost animal is recovered.

All livestock owners must register their ID marks at the office of the Registrar of Animal Identification (see below) and then mark their animals accordingly.

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Where to apply for identification

Registration forms can be obtained from the department of agriculture, extension offices, magistrate’s offices, vets, SAPS stock theft units or the Registrar of Animal Identification. There is a once-off registration fee. Buy a revenue stamp at the Post Office for the right amount and stick it on the application form. Then post the form to the Registrar of Animal Identification, Private Bag X138, Pretoria 0001.The registration is placed on the National Register of Animal Identification System (AIS).

If the mark has become indistinct, it must be reapplied.

There are two types of marks: a tattoo, which must not be bigger than 20mm at the widest and highest part, and a brand, which must be between 40mm and 100mm at the widest and highest part.


These have to be marked by the age of six months. They can be tattooed from the age of one month or branded at the age of six months. They must, however, be branded at the two-tooth stage. The tattoo must be applied in the left or right ear; the brand can be applied on any clearly visible part, except for the neck.

These animals must be tattooed at the age of one month in the left or right ear.

Birds younger than six months, should be tattooed under the left wing. Older birds must be tattooed on the thighs.

These can be tattooed at six months or branded at the age of 12 months. The tattoo should be applied on either the upper jaw, lower lip, left or right ear. The brand can be applied on any clearly visible part, except the neck.

Any person, including an auctioneer, agent or market master, who sells an animal, must, at the time of delivery of the animal, give the buyer a document of identification.

This has to state the date of the sale, and the full names and addresses of the receiver and seller. It must also state that the seller was the legal owner of the stock and so able to dispose of it.

The buyer must retain the document of identification obtained from the seller for one year.

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Gerhard Uys grew up as a real city lad, but spends his free time hiking and visiting family farms. He learnt the journalism trade as a freelance writer and photographer in the lifestyle industry, but having decided that he will be a cattle farmer by the age of 45 he now indulges his passion for farming by writing about agriculture. He feels Farmer’s Weekly is a platform for both developed and emerging farmers to learn additional farming skills and therefore takes the job of relaying practical information seriously.