This fact sheet was developed by students enrolled in Purdue's ANSC 442 Sheep Management course in Spring 2006, as a semester project. These fact sheets provide useful information on various topics related to sheep. View the list of fact sheets.


ABC's of system
Numbering System
Related Links
Created By:
Matt Edwards
Dusty Watkins
Sara Steward

ABC's of an identification system

Why do producers need an effective identification system?

The answer is simple. Animal identification is the basis of all records in the operation. Identification allows a producer to track individual animals productivity and health. Proper identification also allows an animals origin to be tracked from slaughter plants and from other producers.  An identification system is fundamental in controlling any disease that is in the system so that the animals can be quickly and effectively identified and also to know where the animals came from and the date of entry to any location.

Simple plan for effective identification.

The most basic plan is to just assign a number to each animal on the farm. However, just an abstract number is nothing more than just that a number. The key to an effective numbering system is allow that number to provide the producer with valuable information.

There are many ways to identify sheep, but ear tags are the most common method.  Some other methods include DNA tags, tattoos, ear notches, neck chains, and electronic ID.  The USDA require all sheep to have identification tags before leaving the farm of origin, this is known as the scrapie identification. The tags show a number for each animal in the flock and the year which the animal was born for the most simple methods. More complex numbering systems are included on the “Numbering Systems” page. These numbers are also kept in a record by the producers, who must keep the record for at least five years after the animal has been sold.  Record keeping is a very important aspect when producing animals.  Performance records helps to identify which lambs should be kept to be used for replacements, which ewes should be kept and which should be culled, and which rams sired the best lambs of the flock.  It is also important in controlling diseases.  Basic records include the sire and dam, date of lambing, the sex of the lambs, and the ID number of the lambs. 

Scrapie Identification

Scrapie ID is most commonly white tags made from either plastic or metal.  Scrapie tags or tattoos are required regardless of the situation for all breeds of breeding goats and breeding sheep entering into a public or private commerce.  Included on the tags are individual numbers and a flock number to identify where the sheep came from.  A new regulation will be coming into effect on July 1, 2006 and every sheep will be required to not only have an ID at all times, but tags will have to be replaced with a new scrapie tag from the new owner.  For more information about scrapie tags or to obtain a premises ID contact your veterinarian.

Additional ID Information

For more information please refer to the “Related Links” page to be referred to valuable resources.

A number is just a number without any valuable information.


A example of a four digit numbering system. This lamb was born is 2004 and was the 131st lamb born in that year.


Smaller temporary tags of birth order only may be placed in young lambs until permanent tags can be inserted.


A special thank you to Gerald Kelly, Purdue Sheep Unit Manager, for allowing us to photograph his sheep.