5 Methods of Identifying Farm Animals

A livestock farmer is expected to establish the identity of an animal as soon as the animal is born or some days after birth. A lot of farmers have ignored the importance of animal identification. Giving names to farm animals may serve the purpose to an extent for a small herd, but may not be feasible for a large herd or farms with many animals. So it is crucial to put some sort of identification marks on each animal present on a farm.

Importance of Identification Marks on Animals

The importance of animal identification includes:

  • It makes record keeping easy for a livestock farmer or animal breeder.
  • It makes treatment or culling of sick or unproductive animals easy.
  • It makes it easy for a breeder to select replacement stock for the next breeding season.

Methods to Identify Animals

There are various methods that can be used to identify an animal. These are:

  1. Ear tagging
  2. Ear tattooing
  3. Number tagging
  4. Branding
  5. Ear notching

1. Ear Tagging

Ear tags are metals pieces that have letters or numbers engraved on them. They are of two types, and they include self-piercing tags and the ones that require that a hole be made in the ear of the animal using an ear punch. Normally, these tags are inserted within one-third of the way out from the base of the animal’s ear and the upper edge of the animal’s ear with the number at the top. This method is used for animals like cattle, pig, sheep, goat, donkey and rabbit.

ear tagging cattle
Ear tagging cattle

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2. Ear Tattooing

Ear tattooing is another method of putting an identification mark on animals with light coloured ears. It involves punching several small holes with a die (specifically meant for tattooing) in the form of letters or numbers through the skin on the inside of the animal’s ear and they are then filled with tattoo ink. This should form a permanent mark if done properly. The standard is to start marking with “001” till it reaches “999”. The demerit/disadvantage of using this identification method is that there is a need for catching the animals and cleaning the inside of the ear before the identification marks can be read. This method is used for animals like cattle, sheep, goat, donkey and rabbit.

tattooing in farm animals
Ear Tattooing

3. Number Tagging

Some farmers prefer using large metal tags that can be seen and read at a distance rather than using ear tagging or tattooing identification method on their animals. Number tagging involves fastening metal tags to neck chains and putting the chain around the neck of each animal. The disadvantage of this method is that these metal tags may get lost. This method is used for animals like cattle, chicken, sheep, goat, donkey and rabbit.

number tagging in animal husbandry
Number tagging

4. Branding

Branding is the most common identification method used in animal husbandry. It is normally done when the animals are very young or before they are weaned. This method involves gentle press of a heated number or symbol on the body of the animal. This causes partial burning of the skin tissue and results in a permanent scar showing the number or symbol.

Branding can also be done using a cold stamping iron. Here, a branding liquid is used and the stamp is dipped in the branding liquid and applied on the animal’s body the same way the hot iron is done. The wound takes longer to heal up under this type of branding.

The disadvantage of the branding method is that permanent damage is caused to the branded animal’s skin, thus reducing the value of its skin or hide. I always recommend the lower part of the animal’s thigh as the best place for branding as that part is of very low value. This method is used for animals like cattle, sheep, goat, donkey and rabbit.

branding in farm animals

5. Ear Notching

This is an easy method of identifying animals and it involves making notches cut in the ears of the animals. A notch represents a number based on its location (on the bottom, top or end of the ear as well as the ear it is in). This method is commonly used on pigs, rabbits, goats and sheep.

ear notching in pigs
Ear notching

For poultry birds, you can use light aluminium wing tags carrying either individual or group numbers. This is done a day after hatching, and a separate numbered or coloured leg band may be used when the birds are matured.

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Akinbobola A.

I am an entrepreneur, certified animal scientist, consultant and blogger. You can follow Livestocking on Facebook and Twitter. Click Here to E-mail me
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5 thoughts on “5 Methods of Identifying Farm Animals”

  1. hello Akin,
    I am trying to tag a large number of pigs and the cost is on the high side. Which can you recommend as the cheapest? Thanks.


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