How to tag livestock properly

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Tagging livestock is an important part of animal identification but must be done properly to keep the animal from losing its tag or getting an infection. Before starting, make sure you have the proper ear tags and tag applicator.

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1Secure the animal
Properly secure the animal to limit the animal’s head movement during the tagging process. Limiting head movement prevents improper tagging or injury to the animal or human doing the tagging.

For cattle, use a cattle chute with a head gate, halter and/or nose lead. Confine swine in a small pen, use hog boards, or a hog snare to completely secure the pig. For sheep and goats, properly grip the animal’s head to hold it in place.

2Disinfect
Proper hygiene is necessary to prevent infections. Use rubbing alcohol or disinfectant to clean the applicator as well as the tagging site in the ear.

3The applicator
Place each half of the tag onto the applicator. The stud must be completely onto the applicator pin and the panel/button portion must be under the opposite clip. Make sure the applicator pin is not bent or broken.Make sure the applicator is aligned before tagging the animal by closing the applicator to the point where the two halves meet; the stud should be centered with the hole.

Make sure the applicator is aligned before tagging the animal by closing the applicator to the point where the two halves meet; the stud should be centered with the hole.

4Tagging site
Identify the tagging site on the ear. Tags should be placed in the middle third of the ear between the upper and lower ribs. Tags placed too far outside the recommended area are prone to snagging and getting ripped out, while tags too far inside the animal’s ear could cause pinching or necrosis.

When applying electronic identification (EID) tags, apply tag with the visual panel, male portion, of the tag on the outside back of the ear with the EID button, female portion, of the tag inside the ear.

5Tagging
Position the applicator in the identified tagging site on the animal’s ear. Firmly and quickly close the applicator, and release.

Inspect the tag to verify it is in correctly, comfortably and securely. Record the necessary data on the animal.

6Watch for infection
Once the animal has been tagged, monitor the tagged area for infection. Apply hydrogen peroxide directly to the ear tag puncture for five to seven days to prevent infections. If a serious infection occurs, consult your veterinarian.

Sources: Livestock Tagging, Oklahoma State University Extension.

(Farm and Dairy is featuring a series of “101” columns throughout the year to help young and beginning farmers master farm living. From finances to management to machinery repair and animal care, farmers do it all.)

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