Methods of Identifying Livestock | Livestock

Identifying livestock is an integral part of raising animals whether for a hobby or as part of a large farm operation. Having easy to read identification on animals allows producers to keep better records and aids in management. Many laws in regard to animal identification deal with interstate travel and not travel of livestock within the state. The main species benefiting from identification include:• Poultry and waterfowl species
• Beef cattle
• Dairy cattle
• Swine
• Sheep
• GoatsPoultry and waterfowl are generally identified with a plastic or metal leg or wing band. The band is generally imprinted with an identification number and can be found in metal or plastic. Wing bands are similar though are applied through the cartilage in the wing and have been identified as causing stress for hens in group settings. However wing bands are much easier to read than leg bands. Plastic leg bands are economical and are easily removed. Depending on the style of band, small specialized pliers are used to attach the bands to the poultry.Metal or plastic ear tags are ideal for cattle, sheep, goats, and swine. Plastic ear tags are one of the more economical and commonly used identification methods. The tags are easily read while working animals and can be simply applied with specialized pliers. Many different options are available such as being printed on more than one side or with specialized numbers. Disadvantages include: ripping out and damaging the animal’s ear, and are easily removed if animal is stolen. Ear tags are best used for market animals or smaller livestock operations.Electronic devices include: implants, boluses, leg bands, neck tags, and neck collars. These are the most expensive method of livestock identification. Included species that use these methods are: cattle, sheep, goats, and swine. Electronic devices are especially useful in dairy operations where a scanner is used to record each cow’s milk production and feed intake. Boluses can only be used by ruminants such as cattle. One major disadvantage is the need for a special scanner for each of the various types of microchips that are in production.Ear notching is generally used by swine producers. This identification method is extremely reliable, permanent, and economical. Several numbering methods exist, but all identify the pig by its litter on its right ear, and the individual number on the left ear. The only cost is economical “notchers” which cut a small triangle out of the pigs’ ears. It is best done when the pig is less than three weeks old.Tattooing is a permanent identification method used on cattle, sheep, goats, and swine. Special tattooing pliers are used and must be appropriate for the species. Tattooing is often used for breeding and show animals. Cost is minimal, but does take a person who experienced livestock tattooing, if not applied correctly the tattoo will not be legible as the animal ages.Nose printing is often used for show cattle, sheep, and goats. Often messy, but like a human’s fingerprints’ a nose print is unique to each individual animal.Hot or freeze branding is generally used on beef cattle to identify owners. Many western states have extensive laws on brands. Brands need to be registered and there are strong penalties for attempting to change an animal’s brand. Like tattooing branding is permanent, and requires experience.When choosing an identification method for your livestock or poultry consider what is economical for your operation, and what works best for your livestock or poultry species.