DNA testing - identification and traceability of cattle

Area of Expertise:

Identification and traceability of cattle and their products is extremely important for animal disease control and public health.

Current methods

Current identification methods are based on tracing a device (ear-tag, electronic ID ear-tag, bolus or transponder) attached to, or introduced into an animal. These devices can become separated from an animal thereby compromising identity and traceability, often with significant financial consequences for the herd owner.

DeoxyriboNucleic Acid (DNA) based identification relies on using the unique, unalterable, inherited DNA profile of an individual animal as an identifier. Unlike systems which track devices attached to animals, DNA tracks the animal itself.

This new technology is now available for use in support of conventional identification and can be used to help with problems of identity and traceability.

AFBI offers DNA testing on a range of different sample types from cattle including blood, hair, semen and muscle/meat. All bovine parentage and identity testing is certified to the ISO17025 standard by UKAS, whilst freemartin testing is certified to ISO9001:2000 levels.

The types of testing offered are described below.

Cattle DNA parentage testing for farmers and breed societies

  • AFBI offers competitive DNA parentage testing which enables breed societies to confirm parentage of pedigree and commercial animals.
  • Farmers who have lost the identity of valuable animals may also, with the consent of the relevant authority, use this service to re-establish identity thereby preventing potential financial loss.

Cattle DNA testing for freemartinism

  • A heifer calf born as a twin to a bull is usually a ‘freemartin’ and as such will be infertile.
  • AFBI now offers a rapid and cost-effective DNA based test which detects freemartinism with 90% certainty allowing the herd keeper to make informed choices about herd and financial management without having to wait for the animal to mature sufficiently for veterinary inspection.

Documents for download


For more information on DNA parentage & identity testing for cattle and cattle freemartin testing, contact: ​