How to Do It Safely and Correctly

Should you tag your sheep?

While there are many reasons why farmers may choose No While ear tagging your sheep (not having enough time or the cost associated with doing so are two major reasons), it is a good idea to ear tag the animal.

Not only is ear tagging recommended by the USDA for any animal that will leave your farm (whether to go to a fair, at the vet’s office, or for an auction), it also helps you stay organized. is a good way.

Here are some tips on how to ear your sheep—and a few things to keep in mind.

What is Tagging?

Ear tagging is a process that involves inserting a premade ear tag (usually made of plastic) into a sheep’s ear. It requires a special device to create a clean, sanitary hole through which the ear tag is automatically inserted.

It is an important herd management practice that is inexpensive (although with a large herd of sheep it can incur a significant cost) but is beneficial. It may take some time to tag the entire flock, but it will make it easier to keep track of your flock.

Most ear tags are marked with a number. They are often color-coded and may contain other identifying information, such as the name of a farm. You can often customize your farm’s ear tag to include any information that you find relevant.

In addition to the basic plastic clip ear tags, there are also flag-shaped ear tags in which the two discs are joined through the ear. There are button-shaped tags, which also connect via ear and metal ear tags. You can also buy electronic identification tags. Although more expensive, they are ideal for large farms where security is essential.

Benefits of ear tagging

How to Do It Safely and Correctly

Ear tagging sheep (as well as other types of livestock) is beneficial for several reasons.

Here’s a quick overview, but know that ultimately, the biggest advantage of ear tagging is that it can help you keep your farm more organized and tidy. When you don’t have to constantly check records for information, you can do your daily tasks more efficiently.

1. Sign of Sex

Sure, you can always check the sex of an animal by looking at its “parts”. However, this can be time-consuming, and sometimes, “checking the plumbing” is impractical. Not to mention, ear tagging will let you get this information instantly without getting your hands dirty.

You can put primary tags in individual ears for either gender. In this way, you can sort the animals for faster breeding.

2. Determining the Year of Birth

You can also use the year tag to indicate the year of birth. Many farmers print the year on the year tag or use a different color tag for each year (or both). That way, you’ll know exactly how old an animal is without having to get close to it or examine its teeth.

3. Attention to problems for murder and drug

How to Do It Safely and Correctly

If you have animals that are known to have problems such as mastitis, foot problems, prolapse, etc., ear tagging them is a great way to indicate these problems in large flocks.

Since you obviously won’t know which animals are going to be problematic when you tag them at birth, you can simply put on another cool tag later or mark the tag with a permanent marker.

4. Dam and Stream Sign

When you’re trying to breed animals efficiently (and rule out potential breeding issues), it’s smart to pinpoint the sire and dam with a simple ear tagging system. You can use another tag of a different color for each sire or print the name of the sire or dam on the tag of its offspring.

5. Referring to Singles, Twins or Triples

Finally, ear tags can be used to indicate which animals were single as well as which were part of a pair or trio. This can speed things up when you are sorting animals to be bred or sold. No record-checking required!

how to ear tag sheep

How to Do It Safely and Correctly

Some are hesitant to ear their sheep, believing that it will cause great distress to their animals. However, when done correctly, the procedure is no more painful than getting your ears pierced.

1. Educate Yourself About Time and Space

Ear tag young lambs for best (least painful) results.

When you tag, place the ear tag no more than 2 inches from the base of the ear. Going too far from the head will make the sheep more likely to tear off the tag on the fence. It can also cause the ears to drop from the extra weight (although it is important to note that it is very common for young lambs to have ears that are tagged regardless of the gap when they are tagged).

Also, pay attention to the vein that goes down the center of the ear. Place the tag above or below the vein. If you are showing your sheep in exhibitions this should be under the vein.

You can use ear tags of any size, color and number, and you can attach the tag to any ear. Just be consistent.

When choosing the proper size, know that larger tags are easier to see from afar, but you may have to wait longer to tag your lambs. You can always re-tag later with a larger tag to prevent young sheep from catching on fencing or brush.

Lastly, if possible try to put ear tags on when it’s hot. This will make it easier to push the plastic through the ear as it is more flexible in hot weather. If you must make tags in the cold, place the tags in a bucket of hot water until you are ready to use them.

2. Decide on a System

How to Do It Safely and Correctly

I’ve given you some tips for potential tagging systems above – but feel free to create your own tagging system. As long as you stick to the system, it doesn’t matter what kind of methods you choose.

3. Prepare the Tagger

You will need a special tool to attach tags to your sheep’s ears. It looks like a large pair of pliers with a thin needle on one side and a spring-loaded clip on the other. This will let you center the female end and release it once it reaches the tag’s ear securely.

Make sure your ear tagger is compatible with the type of tag you buy (most stores sell these together). Make sure it is sterilized and that you know how to use it before starting.

4. Insert and Align Tags

Place the female end of the ear tag under the spring-loaded clip of your tagger. Then, slide the male side of the tag over the tip of the needle.

Align the hole on the female side of the tag with the male side. Disinfect both the tag and the tagger once again before you begin.

5. Attach the Tag to the Ear

How to Do It Safely and Correctly

Place ear tagger on ear with tag in proper position. Double check to make sure it’s where you want it to be.

A side note – it can be helpful to have another person to work with you on this task. Even if you’re tagging smaller, lighter lambs, they can be scruffy and difficult to hold, which can increase the chances of making a mistake or slipping.

6. Squeeze and Release

To pierce the ear, press the trigger of the ear tagger. Ear tag should be applied! Press the clip on the tagger to release the ear tag, making sure it is in the proper position, and making sure there is no bleeding.

The insertion site shouldn’t bleed if you’ve tagged correctly – but if you do see any blood, just spray it with some Blu-Kote or Red-Kote (or similar wound-preventing spray) Spray it to ensure that your animal does not get infected.

Release the sheep and monitor the tagging site for the next few days. that’s all there is to it!

ear tag when your sheep are young

How to Do It Safely and Correctly

Ear tags can help you keep track of your animals without too much confusion. Whether you’re trying to identify animals by their parentage, sex, or year of birth, using tags is a smart choice.

Of course, this is something you will have to do when your animals are small. Ear tag wounds in young lambs heal much faster (and with less risk of infection) than in older animals. Even if the smaller tag eventually becomes less useful or falls out, you’ll have a clean hole where you can install a larger tag later.

Consider these tips for earing your sheep – it’s a smart way to stay organized on the farm!

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