Successfully Tattooing Goats


Tattooing is not a difficult procedure, although it can be messy. If you are raising registered goats, or want to permanently identify your animals, tattoo identification is the way to go. There are several sizes of tattoo guns, the 3/8" being the most common used in goats. If you have an older tattoo gun - check to make sure the numbers all hit the pad evenly. The older numbers have thicker pins in them then the newer ones and make a more legible tattoo. Also spend the extra money for one with a rotating head. This allows you to keep your herd prefix on one side, and change the ID number on the other. Tattoo outfits can be purchased from any place that sells livestock supplies - Jeffers, Nasco, Caprine Supply, and probably your local feed or ranch store.

First thing is to figure out your tattoos. For Boer goats the right ear is the herd prefix. You must register your herd prefix with each association. The left ear tells the year the goat was born and the ID number of the goat. Be sure to get these correct. When you show or sell a goat the tattoo must match the registration papers. Each year has a different letter. The ABGA is using "M" for all kids born in the year 2000, "N" for 2001 and "P for 2002. So if you are designating your kids 1,2,3 and so on the first kid of this year would be tattooed in the left ear "M1" or "M01" or "M001" depending how you have your numbering scheme set up.

Gather all your equipment. Tattoo gun, digits (remember a number 11 needs 2 "1" digits), ink (roll on green seems to be the most popular), 409 or similar to clean the ears, rags, rubbing alcohol or Listerine (to disinfect the digits between use), and your list of numbers. Index cards can also be helpful - you can tattoo the card to make sure you have the digits going the correct direction. Then put the animal's name or number, sex, & description on the card and you can fill out registration papers from the card.

Clean & dry the animal's ears with 409. 409 will remove the grease & oils that are built up on the skin. Clean you digits with alcohol or Listerine, place them securely in the gun. Tattoo an index card or paper to make sure you have the right numbers in the right order. Tattoos can't be undone. Secure the animal well. We tattoo ours on the trimming stand. If you must hold the goat, straddle it, and pick the front legs off the ground a little to keep control. Remember the left ear is the goats left ear, not yours. So if you are facing the goats head, the left ear will be on the right. Examine the ear. Look for the large veins, try to place your tattoo between the veins, far enough down on the ear that the tag (if used) will not cover it, and high enough up to be out of the hair.

Liberally apply ink to the ear. Position the tattoo gun on the ear and mash firmly. The goat will holler, but it only stings for a minute. Reapply ink over the holes. If you use the paste, you might want to rub the ink in the wholes with a toothbrush. Wipe off the excess ink. Sprinkle baking soda on tattoo - this is suppose to set the ink. Repeat on the other ear. Tattoo the right ear with your herd prefix, and the animal's number on the left. If your goats haven't been vaccinated you may want to consider giving a tetanus antitoxin being that you are puncturing the skin.

Prepare for everyone to turn green. Goats seem to have to show their war wounds to each other. Wear old clothes, and keep plenty of rags around. Wash ink of your hands before it dries. Liquid dish soap removes it pretty well.


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