by Kim Waalderbos

Mooove on over, ladies. There’s a new diva on the block, and she’s…accessorized. Her momma too.

Cows and calves on Canadian dairy and beef farms are all sporting a pair of ‘earrings’ or ear tags that are unique to them. The cool part about these ear tags is not only are they stylish, but they serve an important purpose too — traceability.

A young dairy calf sports her Canadian national identification ear tag (the round button in her right ear).

These ear tags are part of an industry initiated, industry-led program called the Canadian Cattle Identification Program ( Participants in Canada’s beef, dairy and bison sectors established the program January 1, 2001, with full enforcement (including fines and penalties) since July 1, 2002. How does it work? All cattle in Canada must be tagged in their ear with a CCIA approved tag before leaving their farm of origin. Each tag is visually and electronically embedded with a unique ID number that is tracked in a national database. Each ear tag allows full traceability so an animal can be tracked from its birth on a farm and at all points through its life – including transfers to other farms, through sale barns, or meat processing plants.

This program is enforced by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The ear tag system has improved the efficiency in which an animal can be traced back by 90 per cent. This is especially important to help ensure devastating reportable diseases and major food safety challenges are contained and/or eliminated. If the need arises – Canadian cattle can be tracked quickly and efficiently to their sources. Farmers purchase the tags from special distributors all across the country.

The tags are quick and easy to attach to each animal – much like a person getting their ears pierced. If an animal loses an earring along their journey, a new ear tag is given…and both are tracked for that animal.

So the next time you see a Canadian animal flashing their ear bling – know that not only is it the stylish thing to wear, but these ear tags serve an important purpose too keeping our food supply safe and traceable.


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