Animal identification is done when a calf is born. It is one of the most important tasks, as identification is essential for keeping genetic information as accurate as possible. Permanent identification can be done by either tattoo or tamper-proof eartags.
Calves identification by tattoos must be done before leaving individual pens or ties. One or both ears may be used; and the letter, numbers or both can be used for tattooing. No two animals of the same sex in the same herd may have the same tattoo. Tattoos must include at least one letter and one number. Tattoos may not exceed a total of seven letters and numbers in each ear. It is the owner’s responsibility to maintain a valid and legible tattoo in the ear of each animal owned.
The Basic Procedure
1. Select any letter
2. Number the calves consecutively from 1 to 999, the number preceded by the letter you have selected. For example, if you select A as your letter, the tattoos will read A1, A2, A3, and so on.
3. Put the same tattoo in both ears. In case the tattoo should fade in one ear, the animal can still be positively identified from the other ear.
4. After you have tattooed number 999, select a new letter and start over beginning with 1.
Work in an environment that is as clean as possible. To enhance bio-security, wear gloves, use separate cloths or pads to clean animals’ ears, and disinfect equipment between animals.
First, gather the necessary materials:
• Alcohol pads or rubbing alcohol and a soft, clean cloth;
• spray bottle of rubbing alcohol;
• tattoo ink;
• Tattoo kit.
Good tattooing can be done by maintaining tattooing equipment, keeping it clean and replacing broken or dull characters.
Clean Ear with Alcohol
Using an alcohol pad, clean out the ear completely. If the wax is mixed with the ink, the tattoo is most likely fadeout. If no alcohol pads are available, rubbing alcohol with a clean cloth will also work, as long as the wax is completely removed. A clean ear is the first step to a successful tattoo.
Apply a generous amount of ink over the area to be tattooed, usually between the middle ribs of the ear. Keep out of the hair around the edge of the ear. An area should be slightly larger than the tattoo equipment can cover.
Get a secure hold on the calf. After checking the tattoo by punching it into a piece of paper, position the tongs in the center of the ear and squeeze firmly. Avoiding the ribs will prevent bleeding. Be sure to lift the tongs out straight; tattoos can be ruined by scratches.
Again, apply ink and rub in firmly. This single step will assure a lasting tattoo.
Sanitize tongs between calves by spraying rubbing alcohol on the tongs and the individual tattoo pieces. This should be done before and after each procedure.
The Finished Product
After several weeks, the ink will dry and flake out of the ear, leaving a legible tattoo and a permanent means of identification.