Tattooing is not the horrible chore that some producers like to make you believe. If you can organize your tattoo digits and have a good person to help you, tattooing can be simple. It is increasingly important to tattoo your goats. The American Dairy Goat Association requires all goats to be tattooed and many breed associations are following suit. The Scrapie eradication program will accept tattoos as identification if they are registered with the state as being specific to your herd. Ear tags often get pulled out and cause a lot of grief. Tattoos, on the other hand, can be a great form of identification if applied correctly.
The most important point of tattooing is to make sure you are putting the tattoo in the correct ear. Some organizations will tell you to put a farm tattoo in the right ear and the individual number in the left ear. Be sure you are standing behind the goat and using the GOATS right or left ear, not facing the goat and getting mirror results. Read the breed or organization guidelines before tattooing any animals. Once the tattoo is applied it is difficult to change.
I like to use the .300 pet tattoo pliers and digits or the 5/16 inch pliers and digits. You can get a tattoo kit at a local feed store, or out of a supply catalog. Be sure you get the correct digits for the pliers. Expect to pay between $20.00 and $40.00 for a tattoo kit. Many kits will come with one set of digits but you may need more than one set. One set of tattoo digits will cost between $10.00 and $30.00.
Follow these steps to insure a good tattoo on your animals.
1. Clean the ear(s) before tattooing. The tattoo will be more legible and there will be less of a chance of infection if the site is clean.
2. Place the correct number/letters into the pliers and tighten. ALWAYS check the tattoo in a piece of paper or a paper towel before tattooing the animal. This eliminates a lot of headaches after the tattoo is put in backwards or upside down.
3. Smear tattoo ink over the spot you plan to tattoo. Green ink is my preference. It works better for animals with dark ears or tail. Try to make sure there are no blood veins, warts, or scar tissue in the area to be tattooed. Remember to hold the pliers so that you are tattooing with the needles going into the inside of the ear and that the pliers are held upright so the tattoo will not be upside-down!
4. Squeeze the tattoo pliers closed over the inked area in a firm, quick motion. You will not be able to see the imprints very well at that point and there may be some blood, but don't worry about that. Sometimes with now pliers and digits the needles will go through the ear and you will have to peel the ear off of the needles. It happens, don't get excited. Immediately ink the area again and rub the ink in with your fingers or gently scrub the ink in with an old, SOFT bristle toothbrush.
5. Clean the tattoo pliers and the digits using a mild dish soap and very hot water. I like to boil mine or disinfect them before I put them away. If you choose to disinfect use a mild form, so the next time you tattoo you don't end up with a chemical burn.
6. Let the ear heal undisturbed. Some tattoos may take 2 to 3 weeks to heal and others heal in a week. Always try to tattoo at least a month ahead of the show so your goat's tattoo can be read without causing discomfort to the goat.
7. If you have a LaMancha goat you will be tattooing the tail web. You will use the same technique. The biggest difference will be the amount of tissue being squeezed in the tattoo pliers. Use the same method, and you should get a nice tattoo.
8. If you have a dark eared goat, it's a good idea to keep a flashlight in your show box, if you intend to show. Shine the light from behind the ear, and it will be much easier to read the tattoo.
Some tattoos will fade over time. It may be necessary to reapply the tattoo. You will follow the same procedure, but be sure to check with your breed registry for rules regarding re-application of tattoos.