July 2nd, 2021 | Updated on April 10th, 2023
As American Cattlemen notes, hot iron brands have long been a standard method of identifying cattle ownership, but there are many other identification systems used for individual ID and keeping herd records.
Identification of cattle is necessary for all types of record systems, ranging from a simple inventory list to performance records. The two components are a numbering system and the method of numbering or marking cattle.
Tagging your cattle with individual identification like unique ear tag numbers brings many benefits, including being able to quickly verify which cow you’re working with to locate the animal in your record-keeping system easily.
You’ll be able to track performance as well. The cost and time it takes to individually identify the animals easily pays for itself over the long haul.
Numbering systems must provide unique identification for each animal in the herd, with ear tags one of the most popular methods used.
The larger type of tags are easy to read out in the pasture and easy to apply too. While they can get lost, perhaps snagged on a fence, most will carry a tag for years before that occurs.
Ear tags can typically be classified in one of three styles, metal, one- or two-piece plastic that vary in color, size, shape, and method of attachment to the ear.
You’ll use either pliers, a knife, or another tool to pierce the animal’s ear, passing a portion of the tag through it.
So how do you find the best ear tags for your cattle?
Visit Your Local Livestock Supply Store
Livestock supply stores offer ear tags for cattle, making it easy to select the type that meets your needs, with staff available to provide advice. Most manufacturers offer blank tags and pre-numbered tags in a variety of colors.
Using blank colored tags for identifying calves sired for a particular bull provides lots of flexibility for you to develop your own ID system. You can place the cow’s number on the bottom of the tag and sire and dam numbers at the top.
There are many different suppliers that sell ear tags online, too, providing the widest range of options. You can even find them on sites like eBay and Amazon, often with reviews available to help make your decision.
Heading to the website of a particular supplier to purchase cattle ear tags is often the way to go, however, as they often have knowledgeable, expert staff that you can live chat with to get advice on finding the best layout and tags to use for your cattle.
Most tag manufacturers also provide printed instructions on how their tags should be properly attached so you won’t have difficulty once they arrive, provided you follow their recommendations.
Your Veterinarian and Vet Supply Stores
Your veterinarian is likely to have recommendations for the best ear tags for your cattle. They often work directly with vet supply stores and have the experience of knowing which provide the highest quality products and the best service. They’ll know which type will be able to stand up to heavy usage, making for the ideal permanent tagging solution.