Avoid Fines for Failing to Report Cattle Ownership Change

Washington State Dairy Federation recommends immediate action to avoid fines.

WSDA is moving toward enforcement and penalties for failure to report the change of ownership of cattle.

Fines could total hundreds or thousands of dollars.

When cattle ownership changes, use a reporting option listed below.

Recent changes to state law have impacted the reporting process for the sale, gift, or bartering of cattle from dairy farms. However, lack of use may imperil dairy-requested alternative systems.

Current law requires brand inspections when cattle ownership changes. Two alternative programs are available exclusively to licensed dairies.

  • Brand Inspection – This traditional method can be used for any change in livestock ownership. Because of the costs and time necessary for the inspection, this option may not work for all dairy farms.
  • Electronic Cattle Transaction Reporting – The first alternative to a livestock inspection is the ECTR program. This system allows dairy producers the option of reporting private cattle transactions via the internet. This program is available for all ownership transfers of individually identified dairy cattle except steers.
  • Green Tags – A second alternative to a livestock inspection is the green tag program, which is for unbranded bull calves or freemartins less than 30 days old that are not being shipped out of state or sold at a public market. Producers simply need to purchase green tags from WSDA, apply the tags to the calves, and put the 9-digit green tag number on the Bill of Sale.


  • Penalties – If you don’t use one of these three options, you will face penalties imposed by the Washington State Department of Agriculture. The fines and court fees range from $205 to $513. WSDA has the discretion to assess the fees on a per head or per transaction basis. Not using brand inspections or either of the alternatives will result in large fines.
  • Need for Accurate Traceability – If we do not have an adequate animal ID system, diseases cannot be traced and markets will be closed to our products. The one case of BSE in 2003 shut down exports for 10 years. An effective traceability system costs money, but a disease outbreak without traceability will cost producers exponentially more. 10,000,000 sheep and cattle were destroyed as a result of the 2001 foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in the United Kingdom. A strong traceability system protects our dairies from similar threats.
  • Options May Go Away – ECTR and green tags were created as options for dairy producers, who said in surveys that they would use a less costly system as opposed to brand inspections. If ECTR and green tags are not used immediately, those programs may go away, leaving us with only brand inspections and costly penalties.

For more information, see the resources below: