“How To…” Info

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See this handy guide: How to Tattoo Your Cattle.


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The American Aberdeen Association rules require that all registered animals carry a tattoo in one or both ears. That tattoo must consist of the owner’s herd letters, an individual animal identification number and a year letter.


Herd letters are assigned to each member when application for membership is submitted and to non-members when they first register an American Aberdeen. Herd letters must be a minimum of two and not more than three letters.

When registering a calf born to its natural mother, the herd letters of the owner of the dam at the time of birth must be used, and that individual must register the calf before it can be transferred.

An embryo transfer calf must be tattooed with, and registered with the herd letters of the owner of the calf at the time of registration.

Under no circumstances should you attempt to register a calf with herd letters that have not been approved and assigned to you by the Registry Office or use the herd letters of another member or breeder. Example: AAA


No two animals can carry the same tattoo, so the individual I.D. numbering system is important. The individual I.D. number can be a minimum of one and not more than three digits. Example: 1X


Part of the required American Aberdeen tattoo must be a year letter. Usually it is the last digit in the tattoo. See Year Letter Codes.
2023 – L
2022 – K
2021 – J
2020 – H
2019 – G
2018 – F

Download a printable copy of Tattoo Guidelines.


The tattoo should be arranged so that the year letter follows the individual I.D. number. It should not follow the herd letters or be in front of the I.D. number. It is strongly recommended that you use the animal’s individual I.D. number and the year letter portions of its tattoo as its animal herd I.D. number and possible tag number.

For example: AAA1X in this case 1X would be the tag number.


1. Review the tattoo requirements – Herd Letters, ID number and Year Letter.

2. Make sure you have your equipment on hand. Adequate equipment to restrain the animal. A towel or sponge to clean the ear, tattoo equipment with tattoo digits including herd letters, number(s) and year letter and green tattoo ink or paste. Green tattoo paste works much better on black American Aberdeen cattle.

3. Sterilize your tattoo set with alcohol or an equivalent disinfectant. Dirty tattoo equipment can transmit wart viruses and other diseases from one animal to another and usually makes an illegible tattoo.

4. Check your records to be sure of the exact tattoo you will be using. You may want to incorporate the tattoo into the animal’s tag and the animal’s registered name so it will have more meaning to you later on and will simplify record keeping.

5. Check each tattoo by testing it on a piece of cardboard before you apply it to the animal’s ear. It is easy to put the tattoo digits backward in the tattoo gun. Double checking at this point will save problems later.

6. Remove wax and dirt build up from the ear with a damp towel. A dirty ear will prevent the tattoo paste from penetrating the skin and making a permanent mark. Keep in mind, the middle lobe of the right ear is where the Brucellosis (bangs) tattoo will be placed in heifers so make sure to leave this space open for your vet.

7. Rub the green paste in the lobe before applying the tattoo. This step should allow the tattoo paste to better penetrate the ear as the digits are pressed into the skin. Place the tattoo pliers parallel with the ear ribs and press firmly. Then thoroughly rub the tattoo paste into the holes with your finger to make sure you have good coverage. This also helps slow the bleeding. Make sure you don’t tattoo over one of the veins in the ear. 8. You should always check tattoos carefully before you exhibit or offer your animals for sale.

Steps to request an A.I. Certificate:

1. Make sure your bull has an A.I. Permit on File.

Complete the Application to Record AI Sire and send with the appropriate fee to the American Aberdeen Association.

2. Request the A.I. Certificate.

Once the sire has an A.I. Permit, the authorized semen signers can request “paperless” A.I. certificates through the American Aberdeen Association® for specific American Aberdeen producers. The request can be made by using the AI Certificate Request form. This form can be mailed or emailed to the AAA office. Producers also have the opportunity to phone in A.I. Certificate requests.

3. Provide sire, quantity, breed percentage and member information for certificate request.

When making the request for A. I. Certificates, members will need to provide the name and registration number of the bull. Also, the registry office will need to know if the A.I. Certificates are for Fullblood or Moderator® animals. If A.I. Certificate approval is given only for a Moderator animal the registry office will not be able to register any Fullblood animals with the given A.I. Certificate. Quantity of A.I. Certificates, in addition to the name of the member, will also need to be provided.

4. A.I. Certificate is now stored in registry office for specific breeder.

Once the request is in the office, the A.I. Certificates are stored in the member account the certificates were issued to. For example, If Jim Brown released 1 Fullblood A.I. Certificate on Generic Bull Bill with a registration number of FM82 to member # 85 – ABC Cattle, that A.I. Certificate would sit in the registry account for member number 85 until a Fullblood animal was submitted for registration sired by bull FM 82 for member number 85 – ABC Cattle. At that time, the system would search for the A.I. Certificate on file and use it to register the resulting calf.


Common errors producers make in reference to A.I. Certificates…

1. Make sure your sire has an A.I. permit on file.

2. Completely list all necessary information.

  • Sire Name
  • Sire Registration Number
  • A.I. Certificate Quantity
  • Request for Fullblood or Moderator cattle
  • Name of Member needing A.I. Certificates

What if an animal is already pending in the American Aberdeen Association office for an A.I. Certificate?

If an animal was pending for an A.I. Certificate before the A.I. Certificate request was made the producer will need to contact the American Aberdeen Association office and let them know an A.I. Certificate request has or will be coming. After the certificate is issued it will be applied to the requested progeny

Will paper A.I. Certificates continue to be issued?

No. All A.I. Certificates will be issued and stored at the American Aberdeen Association office.

How many A.I. Certificates should I request as the bull owner?

A.I. Certificates should only be requested for the specific producer in specific quantity needed to register current cattle for either Fullblood or Moderator animals. For example A.I. Certificates will no longer be issued in the name of the bull owner in large quantities.

1. Get a DNA Kit from the American Aberdeen Association®.

To get a kit: Order Online Here.

2. Once you have received your DNA kit, obtain a blood sample, TSU or hair sample.

See How to collect DNA from cattle.

Cattle over 6 months – you will need a hair sample, blood sample or a TSU (Tissue Sampling Unit).
Cattle under 6 months – you will need a blood sample or a TSU (Tissue Sampling Unit).

3. Then submit DNA and Register Cattle

For instructions see the Register Cattle page and go to step #3.

When you’re selling cattle, a customer service practice that works very well for both the seller and the buyer is that the seller transfers registration papers. If you make it a habit that as soon as you receive money and the bill of sale, you send off the registration certificate to get transferred, then the sale is complete and you don’t have to worry about it anymore. Sometimes buyers don’t get around to transferring registration until a year or two later and at that point may have lost the registration papers. This means you as the seller have to go about getting papers so you can sign and transfer them over. It can be a hassle for both of you trying to get everything done months or years after the cattle were actually sold. So give it a try, your buyers will thank you!