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One of the most important management techniques that you can use is cattle identification. Without it, you cannot keep records on your animals. Keeping records enables you to make more informed management decisions. There are several methods that can be used to identify individual animals.

The most common form of identification is the ear tag. There are several different types of tags that range in price from $12 for 25 blank tags to $25 for 25 numbered tags. You also have to get the proper tagger to match the brand of ear tag. The ear tag is inserted into the tagger then inserted into the ear according to the instructions. Ear tags are easy to read but they tend to fade after several years or get lost. If there is not a permanent form of identification and the tag is lost the animal can no longer be positively identified.

A good method for permanent identification is tattooing the animals’ ear. Most breed associations require a tattoo to register an animal. The standard tattoo outfit costs about $30.00, and this includes the tattoo gun, numbers 0-9, enough space for four digits and tattoo ink. The first step in the process is selecting the number to be used to permanently identify the animal to be tattooed.

There are many numbering systems; the most important thing is that each animal has a unique number. Once the number is selected, you should take a piece of paper and clamp the tattoo gun on the paper to check to make sure your number is set right. Then clamp the gun on the ear between the top vein and the second vein from the top. Next take an old toothbrush and put some tattoo ink on it and rub the ink into the indentions you have just made. Be very careful when tattooing because tattoos that can’t be read are common. The problem with tattooing is you have to get the animal up to read the ear tattoo. Usually, an ear tag is used as a secondary identification method for easier reading. The tattoo then needs to be used only when the tag is lost.

In my opinion, the most desirable form of permanent identification is the brand. They are permanent and easy to read from a distance if they are done properly. Brands have traditionally been used to identify ownership, but can also be used for individual cow identification. There are two types of branding; hot branding and freeze branding. If you want to hot brand, you will find that traditional long-handled branding irons are hard to find. They work by placing the irons in a fire to get them red hot. The iron is placed on the spot desired and the hair is burned through to the skin. The time needed will vary because the irons will not have a consistent amount of heat. A scar will show up in the shape of the number. If the brand is left on too short or too long a time, the number will be difficult or impossible to read.

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In my opinion, the most desirable form of permanent identification is the brand. They are permanent and easy to read from a distance if they are done properly. Brands have traditionally been used to identify ownership, but can also be used for individual cow identification. There are two types of branding; hot branding and freeze branding. If you want to hot brand, you will find that traditional long-handled branding irons are hard to find. They work by placing the irons in a fire to get them red hot. The iron is placed on the spot desired and the hair is burned through to the skin. The time needed will vary because the irons will not have a consistent amount of heat. A scar will show up in the shape of the number. If the brand is left on too short or too long a time, the number will be difficult or impossible to read.

The second type of hot brand is the electric brander. A set will cost about $230.00. These irons are similar to the traditional iron except they work off of electricity; all you do is plug them in. It takes the brands about 90 seconds to heat and they keep a constant temperature. You hold the brand on for 15-20 seconds. The electric brand can also give you a bad brand if held on too long or not long enough. The biggest problem with hot branding is the scar on the hide causes an economic loss to the cattle industry. They do work better then freeze brands on Charolais cattle because of the color of their hair coat.

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Regional agronomists (RAs) provide on-site consulting services to help growers troubleshoot nutrient and nematode problems, establish appropriate agronomic sampling programs and implement management recommendations in a cost-effective and environmentally sound manner. Read RA success stories or an Informational Field Services brochure. Connect to the current RA map.
By maintaining communications between growers and the Division’s scientific and laboratory staff, RAs ensure that the Division remains responsive to current problems.

Written By

Photo of Seth NagySeth NagyCounty Extension Director (828) 757-1290 seth_nagy@ncsu.eduCaldwell County, North Carolina
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