Traceability: Dairy Cattle

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Traceability is a crucial component of an effective animal health and food safety system that enables precise and rapid emergency response to protect livestock, producers and consumers. Determining where livestock are, where they have been and what other livestock they have come into contact with allows for efficient emergency planning and response. Traceability in Alberta relies on the three fundamental pillars of premises identification, animal identification and animal movement.

For an overview of the dairy cattle industry, click here.

Click here to print this checklist
Dairy Owner’s Checklist of Traceability Requirements

o Register and receive a PID number - click here to register or to log in

o Register any information changes in the PID system within 30 days

o If registered in the herd book, apply approved national dairy tag sets to newborn calves

o Calves age verified before 10 months of age or before leaving farm of origin

o Complete transportation documentation as required

o Record PID Number on Alberta Livestock Manifest when transporting cattle

Applicable Traceability Legislation and Regulations:
Better Management Practices

o Registration of all livestock premises in the PID system

o Accurate record keeping including parentage and medications

o Adoption of biosecurity measures

Premises Identification

Premises Identification (PID), one of the three traceability pillars, is a way of linking livestock and poultry to land locations. The information collected through the Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF) Premises Identification System allows industry and government to locate animals more quickly and accurately to confine a disease outbreak or emergency such as a flood or fire. Animal owners can be notified if an emergency might affect their animals and operation but this can only be accomplished if land locations are registered in the Premises Identification System.

Under Alberta’s Premises Identification Regulation, if you own a livestock animal or poultry, and that animal is kept at a premises other than a commingling site (e.g. stable), you need to apply for a PID Account and obtain at least one PID Number associated to where the animal(s) are located. You must apply for a PID Account within 30 days of assuming ownership of an animal. If you own an animal that is only kept at locations controlled by someone else (e.g. stable) and that animal will never be kept at a premises under your care and control (e.g. farm or acreage), you are not required to register for a PID Account. However, you will need to obtain the PID Number from the operator of the site.

Although only the primary agricultural operation (e.g. home quarter) needs to be registered in the PID System, registering other locations that are not connected to the home quarter will ensure that your operation is better protected. Although you may view your livestock as a pet or companion animal, it is important to obtain a PID Account because your animal can still receive and/or transmit diseases. To find out the species of animals included under the regulation, click here. Even if you only own one animal, it is still necessary to obtain a PID Account.

If you operate a commingling site (e.g. stable, community pasture, fair ground, etc.), you are required to obtain a PID Account, register all your commingling sites and provide the PID Number(s) to the users of your site(s). You must apply for a PID Account within 30 days of assuming ownership or operation of a commingling site.

How to apply and update your account

To apply for a PID Account or to access/update it online:Click here
To apply for a PID Account or to update it by paper application:

(PID paper application forms are also available at AF Field Offices located throughout Alberta.)

Click here

Registering your premises is one of the best ways to safeguard your animals and it’s free. It is important that you keep your information up to date and you must report account changes within 30 days. For example, this would include changes in account contact information, maximum capacity of the premises and contact information for emergencies. If the PID System does not contain accurate and up-to-date information, the emergency response might be delayed.

Animal owners will need to have a PID Number to:

  • Buy medication for your animals at retail outlets (this requirement took effect on July 1, 2014 as part of amendments to the Animal Health Act)
  • Complete movement documents such as manifest and permits, if required, when transporting your animals.
  • Sell livestock at auction markets
  • Apply for many government sponsored agriculture grants and programs
For additional information on the PID Program:
Important note: Information must be kept up to date so that you can be contacted quickly in the event of an emergency.

Animal Identification

Animal Identification, for dairy cattle, is the ability to identify individual animals. Animal identification works with the other pillars of traceability, premises identification and animal movement, to track where animals have been transported and when. Animal identification helps industry and government to locate animals to confine a disease outbreak more quickly and accurately.

National Livestock Identification for Dairy (NLID) distributes approved dairy cattle tag sets in Canada and all male and female dairy cattle, whether they are registered or non-registered, can be tagged with these tag sets. Registered dairy cattle must be tagged with approved NLID tag sets (white) within 24 hours of birth, if they are to be registered in the herd book. The approved official tag set consists of a panel tag and a radio frequency identification (RFID) button/panel tag. One tag must appear in each ear at all times; a tag pair in only one ear does not satisfy dairy standards and Holstein Canada bylaws. The approved dairy tags can be purchased through NLID. For publications on dairy tagging, click here.

If producers in Alberta choose not to register their dairy cattle, cattle can either be tagged with the approved NLID dairy tag sets or with a single approved Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA) RFID beef tag, which can be purchased at an approved tag dealer. Under Alberta’s Traceability Cattle Identification Regulation, you must tag cattle before 10 months of age or before leaving the farm of origin (whichever occurs first). If you have any questions about using beef tags on dairy cattle, please contact CCIA at 1-877-909-2333.

Effective July 1, 2014, all dairy cattle imported from the U.S. with an official 840 RFID button tag no longer need to be retagged with a Canadian 124 RFID button tag. U.S. dairy cows with an 840 RFID tag and a matching 840 visual panel tag do not need any further tagging. If a U.S. dairy cow only has an 840 RFID button tag and no matching 840 visual panel tag, please contact NLID to order a matching visual panel tag to comply with double tagging requirements. For U.S. dairy cattle imported without any official 840 tags, you may purchase a set of official Canadian tags from NLID, or use a set from your own inventory and report the import event to CCIA. For additional information on U.S. dairy cow tagging requirements please contact NLID.

For more information on tagging your dairy animals or to order your NLID tags, contact NLID at 1-877-771-6543.

Age Verification
Age verification is a requirement in Alberta for cattle born on or after January 1, 2009. Age verification links an individual animal’s birth date information to an approved CCIA RFID tag number. Age verifying supports cattle eligibility for export to international markets. Though the timeframe for cattle export has increased, age verification can be most critical when an animals is over or approximately 30 months of age. In dairy cattle, there are value-added reasons to age verify your animals: performance testing, genetic evaluations etc.

Under Alberta's Traceability Cattle Identification Regulation, cattle born in Alberta in 2009, or later, need to be age verified in the CCIA database called the Canadian Livestock Tracking System (CLTS) before 10 months of age or before leaving the farm of origin (whichever occurs first). NLID can forward age verification information to CCIA on behalf of the producer. For more information on age verification in the dairy industry, visit the CCIA website at or call 1-877-909-2333. AF staff in all provincial field offices are available to assist you as well. Also, visit to learn more about service providers that can assist you with age verification.

Important note: Age verification records need to be kept for 10 years.

Animal Movement

Animal Movement is the act of tracing livestock and poultry backwards or forwards through the production supply chain based on animal movement records. Movement records are vital because the faster we can locate where livestock has been, the more effectively we can determine which livestock are at risk of being affected in a disease outbreak.

In Alberta, all cattle must be identified by an approved CCIA RFID tag applied to the animal before it is moved from its farm of origin or before 10 months of age (whichever occurs first). If dairy cattle are registered, the approved CCIA tag sets with RFID technology must be applied before it is moved from its farm of origin. Alberta’s delegated authority, Livestock Identification Services Ltd. (LIS), is responsible for all transportation documentation for cattle under the Livestock Identification and Commerce Act (LICA). Subject to a few exceptions under LICA, an Alberta Livestock Manifest is required to transport or drive cattle within Alberta and to inspection sites (livestock markets, livestock assembly stations, feedlots, abattoirs and country sale sites). For information on how to complete an Alberta Livestock Manifest, click here.

Cattle owners require a LIS Livestock Permit to document the movement of cattle to a destination outside the province as well as when cattle leave an inspection site in Alberta. LIS Special Permits are used to transport rodeo, exhibition and pedigree cattle more than once in a calendar year, both within and outside of Alberta. Movement outside of the country also requires a Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) export permit.

To learn more about transporting Alberta cattle, click here. For more information on movement requirements, contact LIS at or call 1-866-509-2088. Also, visit to learn about service providers that can assist you with animal movement requirements.

Important note: Movement records need to be kept for 10 years.

Dairy Farmers of Canada's proAction Initiative covers six key programs that set national standards within the dairy industry. One of the programs highlighted is livestock traceability. For more information, please visit Dairy Farmers of Canada's website at

As an important member of the dairy cattle industry, you play a key role in the traceability system for livestock in Alberta and Canada. Accurate and current information supporting premises identification, animal identification and movement is crucial to a robust traceability system. Please take care to ensure that information associated with your animals is accurate and that information supporting traceability is documented.

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For more information about the content of this document, contact Adrienne Herron.
This document is maintained by Kelly Corbett.
This information published to the web on October 17, 2012.
Last Reviewed/Revised on March 28, 2018.