I’m Selling, Trading, or Giving Away My Goat

A short tutorial on the need for permanent identification.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

By Peggy Boone, owner of International Goat, Sheep, Camelid Registry IGSCR-IDGR

Common things people say or advertise: 

  • “For sale for $100 without registration certificate or $275 with registration certificate.” 
  • “I just paid cash, so I don’t need a bill of sale or transfer.” 
  • “I just traded for the goat, so bills of sale are not necessary.” 
  • “Oh, I always sell my goats at the auction or on the online lists and I never need I.D. The cops won’t stop me anyway.” 

We see these types of comments all the time in all breeds of goats.   

A little story: 

Howdy. I’m Jane of Northern Dawn Dairy Goats. I have so many people wanting my goats and I don’t have a clue the legal way to sell them. I dislike it when I go to buy a goat and there is no identification on them. Without a bill of sale and permanent identification, how can I prove it is my goat? Also, if I put my farm’s I.D. on the goat I purchase, then what if it is sick? I don’t want that disease to trace back to my own herd, because I am NOT the herd of origin for this goat. 

Finances are now so tight for my family and myself that I may be forced to quickly take all my highly bred goats to the auction, so my family doesn’t lose our home. I don’t want my registered goats to be turned into grade unregistered animals just because I am so broke financially that I can’t afford to keep them. I bred them very carefully for years and have built up a herd of dairy goats that will stand behind you no matter what. So how can I ensure that the scrapie law will not nullify the registration certificates? 

I’ve been told that I could put a non-detachable collar on my goats with the scrapie tag on that. I’ve looked all over the internet and can’t find anything that even resembles a non-detachable collar. So, what is it, anyway?” 

All these types of permanent identification are driving me crazy because I don’t know how to do it or what type to use. 

Its the Law 

Guess what! It is the law and for good reason. By federal law, all goats and sheep who move off of our property must have several things: 

  • At least one form of approved identification, physically on the animal. 
  • Record of herd of origin of that animal, and also record of that animal’s ownership change anytime we sell, trade, or give away that animal. 


Well, it’s for your and your animal’s protection and also for disease traceability. Or maybe you’re trying to prove ownership or lineage.   

And, what if your goat gets out of your property? Many goats look so similar that it is hard to know if the goat is yours, when found. Identification will solve the problem if it is your goat.   

Let’s look at it this way. You buy a car. If you don’t have a bill of sale, a few things can happen: 

  • You cannot register the vehicle and thus you cannot legally drive it. 
  • You can actually go to jail for theft, even though you did not steal it. 

It is the same way with goats. Animals are stolen all the time or get out of our pens. We don’t want our goats impounded or have to pay a fine because we didn’t put permanent identification on them. We love our animals and we want them safe. 

Let me tell you a story on our ranch. We had a wolf go through our herd one night. The cows were so petrified that they took the barbed wire fence and LEFT THE COUNTRY. I mean they flat lit out. Whenever anyone would come near them, they would take off again. It took the entire community to get those cows home.   

Let’s think of this in terms of the possibility of theft. If we hadn’t had identification on that herd of cows, then anyone could have trapped them and stolen them. They could have made quite a bit of money from selling our herd.   

So, this could be your goat, and not my parents’ cow herd. 

Or what about disease? 

Some herds are diseased and this is the other reason for this law of permanent identification, record of sales, and transfers of ownership. We need to all work together to correctly identify our goats. There are diseases out there that can actually harm our own livestock or even people.   

“Alrighty then. You say I must use permanent identification on the goat. What are those types?” 

  • USDA-issued scrapie tags … and/ or 
  • Tattoo assigned by an approved USDA registry (goats must be accompanied by USDA approved registry) … and/or 
  • Microchip, with an “E” tattooed in the ear to signify that there is a microchip (goats must be accompanied by a USDA-approved registry registration certificate) 
  • Non-detachable collar with the scrapie tag, ONLY if there is a tattoo in the ear that the scrapie tag would cover up.   

Identification must be physically on the animal, not just on the registration certificate. 

“I’m selling my registered dairy goats in an auction, so what do I do?” 

The law is that when selling goats in an auction, the goat must have a scrapie tag. Most of us dairy goat people refuse to put tags in our goats’ ears. Yet if we sell in the auction, the goat must have a scrapie tag.   

Did you know that if your goat’s registration certificate has a tattoo or other permanent identification on it, that if you put a different type of I.D. on the goat (such as a scrapie tag), that this nullifies the registration certificate? Why? Because it covers up the tattoo in the goat’s ear. So basically, your American or purebred dairy goat is all of a sudden a grade, just because you sold it in the auction.   

So, what can you do? You can notify your registry of your intent to sell in an auction. Then put the scrapie tag on a non-detachable collar.  

What is a non-detachable collar, anyway? Well, it can be as simple as a piece of nylon webbing that is closed by the insertion of the scrapie tag. 

I hate those scrapie tags in my goats’ ears, so I’m gonna just take them out.” 

Nope, you can’t take those tags out. It is against the law. Once the goat has a scrapie tab, you can’t take it out.   

“I bought this goat and it has no permanent identification. What should I do?” 

  • You may put your identification in the goat’s ear, but make sure you have that bill of sale and keep record that this is not a goat conceived on your farm. 
  • If animal is registered, notify your registry with the new identification. They will enter on the registration certificate.    

Does a wether need identification? 

Yes, if: 

  • 18 months or older and not going to slaughter or for grazing purposes; 
  • Change of ownership and under 18 months of age.

Registration certificates and what must be recorded:  

  • All identification for that animal, original and current; 
  • If someone places their ID on an animal that is NOT for breeding, record on the registration certificate whose identification it is. 

Keeping Records 

  • Owners and breeders must keep a record of all identification of each animal for at least five years; 
  • Registries must keep record of who owns the identification codes and what animals wear those codes. 


  • Dianne K. Norden — APHIS 
  • Diane L. Sutton DVM — Ruminant Health Center, APHIS   

Peggy Boone is owner of igscr-idgr.com, Northern Dawn, and Northern Dawn Dairy. She is currently partnering with a lab for creation of unique DNA testing. Peggy operates a small homestead specializing in heritage breed Nigerian Dwarf, Nubian, and Miniature Nubian goats, where she focuses on saving breeds and homestead goats who will sustain their host families. 

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

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