Goat Identification Has Favorable Perks

Microchipping, Registries, and the Upsurge of Goat Thefts

Goat Identification Has Favorable Perks

Reading Time: 5 minutes

By Anita B. Stone 

Leslie Averill of Arrowhead Farm in North Carolina raises Alpine Dairy Goats and believes, “It is important that all animals are identified.” She states, “They must be identified at shows to receive prizes, they must be identified for transportation purposes, and they must be identified in case they get lost or stolen.” 

There are three ways to identify your goats. One simple method is to use ear tags. Another way is to tattoo the goat. A third way is to microchip your animals.  

“No matter what method you use,” said Averill, “whether you are keeping goats for a sustainable homestead or as a 4-H project, even as a pet, you need to mark them for identification. Sometimes it gets to be a hassle, but there are many rules, and each state is different so be certain to check your state guidelines, especially prior to transport.” 

Dr. Racheal McKinney of Urban Livestock in Phoenix, Arizona, says, “There are options for identification of goats. If we think about it, we see that tattoos fade over time. But the microchip will last and it takes only 30 seconds to inject your animal.” Dr. McKinney also offered, “There is nothing wrong with either microchip or tattoo. Remember that microchips are easy to read, there is less pain to install them rather than use tattoos, they are easier to install and more permanent. There is always the possibility of chips falling out and sometimes they can form tumors in some breeds. If you are undecided and are a first-time goat owner, research it; different companies offer different ideas. I like to choose one that is cost-effective and easy.” Dr. McKinney suggested checking with Home Again and Pet Link for further information. 

Tattoos fade over time. But the microchip will last and it takes only 30 seconds to inject your animal.

If you live in a state that doesn’t require identification, you do not have to identify unregistered goats. However, it is preferable and good protection for both goat owners and goats to register the animal so you can permanently identify it to prove that the goat is who you say it is. You never know when you might have to prove that the goat is yours — if the animal gets lost or stolen, for example.   

Dr. Robert Dennis of Brunswick Veterinary Clinic in Lawrenceville, Virginia favors the microchip.  “We live in a microchip world,” he states. “The microchip, along with microchip reader equipment, and registration papers or other form to record the number. A reader is not necessary but by having one, you avoid the chance of error when you record the number which will be on the National Register if you want to go that way. The tattoo is more trouble whereas the microchip is a valuable asset and the cost is doable.” Dr. Dennis also prefers the chip be injected between the shoulder and the top of the neck rather than under the goat’s tail.  


Whatever method you select, the National Registry is important. Ninety-nine percent of goats are registered. You will need to check with the registry to find out what method they allow and what letters and numbers you need to use. They will assist you with this process. 

The Painful Reality of Goat Theft 

One in three pets goes missing. Goat theft is everywhere and there has been much concern regarding this action. Unfortunately, goats are relatively easy to steal. They can be packed in trailers, treated roughly, without putting up much resistance. As many as 23 goats have been found jammed in a car or shoved into a car trunk. Seventy stolen 4-H goats in California were eventually found, after living in deplorable conditions. Fifteen stolen goats were found in a taxi in Texas. Averill states, “Goat theft is rampant in some parts of the country.   

“It was bad hard,” stated a woman in Pennsylvania, when she lost her pet goats stolen in broad daylight. Whether the goats were family pets or the primary means of livelihood, losing goats is personally painful for owners. 

So why would anyone steal goats? There is obvious profit to the thieves. The reward is gained through selling the goats to individuals or “animal stealing rings” for goat cheese, meat, milk, pets, and recently to trade for guns and drugs. Criminals prey in places where poverty and unemployment have been rampant. In the United States, a recent surge in goat thefts in the Fresno, California’s agricultural region has alarmed goat farmers and increased vigilance there. 

Unfortunately, goats are relatively easy to steal. They can be packed in trailers, treated roughly, without putting up much resistance.

Criminal charges for rustling are a serious matter. However, legislation differs from state to state regarding grand theft. In Washington State, if someone tries to steal the prize show and dairy goat, they’d face misdemeanor charges. Grand theft differs from state to state depending on the number of livestock stolen, kind of livestock, their value, their registration, and the judges’ personal inclination, not to mention the character and history of the thief.   

For livestock, specifically, the nature and value of the property are inconsistent across states. Says goat owner Pat Hendrikson, regarding laws in his region, “Theft of official livestock is a felony. However, as the law stands, goats are not considered livestock — they are considered property.”   

So, what can you do to protect your goats from theft, vandalism or threatening wildlife? Here are some suggestions: 

  • Secure the goat living area with a workable fence, keeping in mind the goat farmer’s creed: “A fence that won’t hold water won’t hold goats.” 
  • Keep goats locked up at night in enclosed windowless buildings, if possible. 
  • Check fencing frequently for any escape routes. 
  • Use lights or motion detectors at night. 
  • Never tether the goats 
  • Use guardian animals. Livestock guardian dogs, though expensive, are well worth the cost. If necessary, use two dogs to join forces. 
  • Mark or tag all goats with registration identification; tattoos or microchips come in handy when identification is necessary. 

Should a goat get lost or stolen, check with local farm auctions, post the goat’s photo on Facebook, Craigslist, neighborhood media, and other social media. Post fliers and check flea markets. Notify the National Registry, local registries, and authorities. Always search adjoining land. Goat thieves may release the goats if they become troublesome or the goats may escape on their own if given the opportunity. 

To give the thieves something to think about, the goats should each have an identifiable number corresponding to a microchip, tag, or tattoo. This makes it more difficult for thieves to get away with stealing your animals.   

Currently, there exists a goat theft bill in the U.S. Government. It is Senate Bill 5290 and the House Bill is 1398. Goat owners can write their representatives and move forward on the goat theft bill, which would change goat theft from a misdemeanor to a felony. It would also allow goats to be classified as “livestock.” 

Originally published in the March/April 2020 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *