7 Methods of Identifying Farm Animals

identification of farm animals

The seven methods to identify farm animals are Tattooing 2. Tagging 3. Neck chains 4. Branding 5. Ear notching 6. Electronic devices 7. Nose Printing. Along with their procedure, limitations, and precautions.

Why Farm Animals Require Identification?

  1. Quickly identify an animal
  2. Keeping accurate production records of the herd/flock.
  3. Records of animal’s parentage, Birthdate, Production, reproduction, and growth records, Health history
  4. Other important management information for management decisions.
  5. ownership of a particular animal, or to indicate the herd/flock of origin
  6. Issuing a loan or insurance claim.

Identification Systems In Farm Animals

1. Numbers

One of the most commonly used system after the introduction of computers on animal farms. No consideration is given in this system during the year of birth and the number is given from 1 to 2 and so on.

2. Combination of Letters & Numbers

One of the most commonly used and highly recommended systems uses a combination of letters and numbers, designating birth year and birth order- Ex- J001, Y-045

combination of numbers and letters (Example)

 1990Z 2010X 2002M 547P
 1991A 2011Y 2003N 568U
 1992B 2012Z 2004W 396R
 1992C 2013A 2008G 225K

Missing letters – I, O, Q & V (These letters are avoided)

Identification Methods of Farm Animals


  Get Tattooing Tool With Ink And Digits

  • Tattooing is a permanent identification method that is commonly used in all species.
  • Indelible ink is used.
  • The tattooing instrument uses number/ letter dies made of sharp, needle-like projections that are secured on the application pliers.
  • The ink is usually applied to the tattoo site on animals ie. the ear after it has been disinfected with alcohol.
  • Using the pliers, the identification number is pierced into the skin, and additional ink is rubbed into the punctures.
  • After healing, the permanent tattoo will be visible.

Tattooing in farm animals

◘ Site

  • For farm animals like goats, sheep, and swine, the tattoo is placed above the first rib of the ear so it does not interfere with the use of ear tags.

◘ Time

  • The best time to tattoo depends on the species of the farm animal.
  • Cattle are easiest to tattoo when they are young calves.
  • Goats and sheep should be tattooed at about 6 months when the ear tissue is finished growing, and there is more space to apply the tattoo.

‣ Procedure

  • To begin tattooing an animal, the animal must be restrained so that firm, constant pressure can be applied until the needles on the dies have protruded deep enough into the skin, to leave a permanent tattoo.
  • When preparing the letters/numbers on the pliers, they will appear backward as you look at them.
  • It is usually a good idea to check the dies on a piece of paper before applying it to the animal.
  • locate the area to be tattooed, clean the area with alcohol, and apply the tattoo ink to the area.
  • Squeeze the handles of the tattooing pliers over the tattoo site making sure they are compressed completely.
  • After applying, rub extra ink into the piercings.
  • The animal can be released after the number has been recorded. Tattoo equipment should be disinfected between each use.

Also, read: The Secrets of Goat Farming In India | Care & Management

‣ Disadvantages

  • One disadvantage of tattooing is that the animal must be restrained to apply and read the identification number.
  • In dark-pigmented ears, the number is almost unreadable, unless a flashlight is placed behind the ear. Therefore, it is best to use green tattoo ink in darkly pigmented ears.

 Ear Tagging

Ear Tagging in farm animals

  • The ear tags are easy to use, flexible to use in all types of weather and cheaper, and easy to read.
  • The tags are pierced through the animal’s ear and allow for the farm animal to be identified from the front and the back of the tag which is numbered on both sides.
  • Tags should be installed between the second and third cartilage rib of one or both ears, using an applicator gun that corresponds to the type of ear tag being used

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‣ Limitations

  • They can be easily ripped from the ear of the farm animal, and in some cases even lost if not applied properly.
  • Permanent marking ink is being used while numbering the tags. The ink fade over time.

 Neck Chains

  • Neck chains, or ropes, are used as a common method of identification in dairy farm animals.
  • The neck chains have a numbered tag attached that corresponds to that animal’s identification number.
  • The chain or rope should be positioned around the animal’s neck, tight enough to not slip over their head, but loose enough to permit easy breathing and growth for young animals.
  • They’re easy to use, painless to the animal, and may be seen fairly well. However, if growing animals aren’t inspected frequently, the chain can become too tight.
  • Chains can also become caught on protrusions that choke the animal. Furthermore, the chains are not permanent and can be hard to see when animals are grouped together.


branding letters

  • It is the most common identification method of the farm animals which is used in animal husbandry, normally done when the animals are at a very young stage or before they are weaned.
  • This method involves the gentle press of a heated/ acid dipped or cryo cooled number or symbol on the body of the farm animal.
  • This causes partial burning of the skin tissue and results in a permanent scar showing the number or symbol.

Also, read: Poultry Farming in India: Everything You Need To Know

Hot branding

Branding in farm animals

  • Branding is done using a heated metal shape stamping iron. For heating gas or electricity can be used.
  • The wound takes longer to heal up under this sort of branding.
  • Don’t use this technique when the animal’s hair is damp or wet. An iron applied to wet hide loses its heat fast, scalding instead of burning the branded area.
  • To use an honest brand, prevent the animals from moving the maximum amount possible. This can be done by employing a cattle squeeze or manually wrestling them to the bottom.

Cold- Freeze Branding

freeze branding in farm animals

  • Freeze branding or cold Branding is similar to hot branding but it involves the use of branding irons, with the letters and numbers, being chilled in liquid nitrogen (N2) or dry ice.
  • Chilled branding iron kills the cells that produce color pigment in the hair follicles but does not kill the growth follicles.
  • White or colorless follicles produced in the branded region result in a permanent brand.
  • After the application, the area will begin to swell and will continue to be swollen for 48-72 hours.
  • About 20 to 30 days after the swelling has subsided, the brand will form a scab.
  • Once the scab has disappeared, white or colorless hair will begin to grow in the branded region. It will take about 3 months after branding.

‣ Points to be considered during branding

◘ Animal

  • The older animals may require an extended application time because the hair follicle which is responsible for pigment production is harder to kill.
  • The white animals require an extended application time. because performing a bald brand, to kill the hair follicles. This allows for the skin to be seen as a brand, which provides a more visible brand for this color of an animal

◘ Time

  • The time of the year that the brand is applied affects how easily the pigmented cells are destroyed. During spring and fall, the hair follicles are the most active, and therefore, most easily destroyed.

◘ Site

  • The branding site can vary between the shoulder, and the rump, with the rump being more desirable due to its flat, muscular characteristics.

Also, read: NBAGR Registered cattle Breeds of 2020 | India

Ear Notching

ear notching in pig

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  • It is widely used in the swine industries as a system of Identifying Farm Animals.
  • It involves removing V-shaped portions of the pig’s ear which correspond to a particular litter number and individual pig number from the litter.
  • The litter number is notched in the pig’s right ear, and the individual pig number is notched in the pig’s left ear. The notches from the right and left ear should combine to give each pig a unique identification number.

‣ Precautions

  • To notch ears use an appropriately sized notcher, according to the age of the animal.
  • It is important to keep the equipment in disinfectant to prevent infection.
  • Ear notching causes very little stress to the pigs, and they can be returned back to the crate after it.

Note:- The notches will bleed, but not heavily, and a scab will form in about a day. The notches will be completely healed in about a week.

 Electronic Identification

electronic identification of animals

‣ Microchips

  • The benefit of using microchips is that they are permanent and relatively painless to the implant.
  • It is a form of identification that involves the implanting of an electronic chip, with a miniature radio transponder and antenna, under the skin of an animal.
  • The most common implant site is near the neck, between the shoulder blades, or near the base of the ear.
  • The transponder can also come in the form of a bolus that can be ingested by ruminant animals.
  1. The chip is readable and writable. It does not need to be written by itself when it comes to raw data. International Animal Coding Committee Certification (ICAR). Free 15 ICAR certification number. It is also possible to change the data through the reader.
  2. The microchip is in the 134.2K/125K FDX-B format (ISO11784/11785 compliant) with 15-bit Encoding, more Scanners Can be Read.
  3. The anti-drop device ensures 100% of the built-in electronic tag does not fall off before implantation. The coated electronic tag prevents dissociation under the skin of the animal after implantation. The product has been Aseptically Processed for Safe Use.
  4. Chip size is 7 (length) mm * 1.25 (diameter).

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‣ Drawbacks to micro-chips

  • The most common possibility is that the chip may migrate to the meat market.
  • Specialized equipment is needed to read and implant the chips, and they are not readable from a distance.

‣ Electronic ear tags

  • It is the best substitute for identification, in case the tag got lost.

‣ Electronic collars

These are similar to neck chains, except they have an attached tag with an electronic number that can be read by a scanner. Electronic collars are easy to use, but they can become a nuisance and can cause choking if they are not adjusted properly to the growth of the animal or if they become hooked on protrusions.

 Nose Printing

nose printing in farm animals

  • It is a form of permanent identification of farm animals and most commonly used for the sales and exhibition purposes of sheep and cattle.
  • Nose printing is very useful because It cannot be modified in any way and it is similar to fingerprinting, in that the lines and dotted pattern from a nose print which are specific for each and every animal, can be recorded by an ink print.
  • When two prints of the same animal are compared, there must be six identifiable matching lines or dots common to both prints.
  • Printing is performed by restraining the animal’s head, either in a headgate or with a halter, and placing a minimal amount of ink on the animal’s dried nose.
  • This ink is then transferred to an index card which is supported by a wooden block or the stiff backing, pressing the card against the animal’s nose.
  • If the prints are readable, they should be allowed to dry, and clearly identified with the owner’s name and the animal’s identification number.



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