Canadian Sheep Identification Program

Animal identification is a fundamental component of livestock traceability. The ability to identify animals and their origins during an animal health or food safety emergency is paramount to the success of the response operation and the protection of human and animal health.

The Canadian Sheep Identification Program (CSIP) is an industry-led trace-back system designed to help trace sources of animal health and food safety problems. It was introduced in 2004, and is applicable to all ovine animals in Canada.

How does the program work?

In practical terms, all ovine animals must be identified with an approved ear tag before leaving the farm of origin - or the farm where the animal was born.

All ovine animals that are imported must also be identified. An animal may be tagged before importation or upon arrival to its destination. Cattle imported for immediate slaughter do not need to be identified.

All tags are visually embedded with a unique identification number that is allocated by the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA), which collects and stores sheep identification information for most provinces in its national database. The exception is the province of Quebec, where the sheep identification program is managed by Agri-Traçabilité Québec (ATQ). All identification numbers are distributed to sheep producers through authorized tag dealers.

The unique identification number of each sheep is maintained to throughout its life, until the animal is slaughtered at an abattoir or exported.

Additional regulatory requirements include the following:

  • The manufacturing, sale, and distribution of tags must be reported to the CCIA.
  • Lost and damaged tags must be replaced.
  • The import of sheep must be reported to the CCIA.
  • On-farm records must be kept for five years about sheep that are 18 months or older that have left the farm of origin, and for the movement of sheep used for breeding purposes.

Additional requirements for Quebec producers include the following:

  • All movements of sheep must be reported, except if the distance travelled is less than 10 km and the ownership or custodianship of the animals has not changed.
  • All sheep are recognized with two identifiers: a dangle tag and a Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID), both bearing the same identification number.

The information stored in the CCIA and ATQ databases is made available to industry and governments during an animal health or food safety emergency, helping them to trace-back the origins of implicated animals and animal products.

Program enforcement

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) administers and enforces national identification and movement reporting requirements for sheep under the authority of the Health of Animals Regulations. Violations of any of the requirements may result in warning letters, fines or, in some cases, prosecution.

More information

For more information about the CSIP:

Canadian Sheep Federation
Telephone: 519-824-6018

Canadian Cattle Identification Agency
Telephone: 1-877-909-2333, 403-275-2083

Agri-Traçabilité Québec
Telephone: 1-866-270-4319; 450-677-1757

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