Tattooing Your Goats
Illustrations by Megan Wilcox
MDGA accepts tattoos and/or microchips as forms of
identification; however, you MUST assign and list
your animal’s tattoo sequence (both right and left ears) on
the registration application!
The tattoo serves as permanent, unique identification for
the goat. This identification will be used for all MDGA
programs, including shows,
milk testing, and evaluation.
The farm tattoo is placed
in the goat’s right ear. (Example:
The year letter and birth order number tattoo is
placed in in the goat’s left ear. (Example:
Right Ear Example
Left Ear Example
Make sure the correct
tattoo goes in each of the goat’s right and left ears. When the tattoo operator is
facing the goat, the goat’s right ear will be on the
operator’s left, and its left ear will be on the operator’s
pictured above has the tattoo letters “DSW” in his right ear
and “D10” in his left ear.
He was born in 2013, so his
year tattoo letter is D. He was the 10th kid born
on the farm that year, so the number 10 goes after the D.
The letters “G,” “I,” “O,”
“Q,” and “U” are not used to designate a year, as they can
be mistaken for another letter if the tattoo is not clear.
Each kid born within a
calendar year should receive a unique number. Most people
start with a “1” for the first animal born then continue
with “2,” “3,” “4,” “5,” etc., for the subsequent animals
born that year. Some people will add a “0” in front of the
numbers 1 through 9: “E01”. Either way of numbering (“E1” or
“E01”) is acceptable. The left ear tattoo, consequently,
includes the letter for the year and the animal’s number
such as “E1”.
Tattooing a goat is a simple operation - so simple that it
can hardly be termed an operation.
Success depends entirely upon the tattoo operator and
his/her ability to follow a few simple rules.
1. Hold the animal securely. With a small kid, this is no
problem, as the animal’s head can be held between the
operator’s knees. With a larger goat, it may be easier to
put a halter on it and tie it rather tightly or put it on a
2. Using a cloth dampened with alcohol,
cleanse the area of the ear to be tattooed to remove dirt,
grease, and wax. (Note: When tattooing a Min-LaMancha, the
tattoo is placed in the thin webbing at the base of the
tail, using the same technique.)
3. Insert the correct symbols for the tattoo in a
tattoo plier. Check the correctness of the tattoo by
impressing it in a sheet of paper.
4. Choose the
location for the tattoo so that it will be parallel to and
between the veins or cartilaginous ridges of the ear, as the
accidental piercing of a good-size vein may spoil the
tattoo. Also, choose an area free from any freckles or warts
that might obscure the tattoo.
5. Cover the area of skin to be tattooed with a layer of
ink. Green ink is better than black ink, especially on
animals with darker skin color. Using the paste ink rather
than the liquid ink is more effective. Also, place a little
ink on the needles of the tattoo plier, as the ink is
carried into the holes better, causing the tattoo to last
longer. Using an old toothbrush to put the ink on the
needles and ear works well.
6. When tattooing the goat, tattoo with the plier
handles facing downward. Otherwise, the tattoo will be
upside down. Make the imprint with a quick, firm closing of
the tattoo pliers.
Sometimes the needles will go all the way through the ear,
but don’t panic; just gently
pull the ear free. If the ink is rubbed on the outside of
the ear, it will work as a blood stop. Immediately after releasing the pliers, it is
important to apply more ink to the ear and rub vigorously
and continuously for at least seconds to insure that ink
penetrates the impressions. The most effective way to do
this is to rub the ink into the impressions with thumb and
forefinger, although a stiff brush may be used.
To avoid staining one’s hands, gloves can be worn.
not disturb the tattooed area until the healing process is
complete, which, depending on the age of the animal, may be
from five to 21 days.
8. Keep a list of correlating animal names and tattoo
numbers. Also, enter each animal’s tattoo number(s) in
private breeding records.
9. To read the tattoo on a dark-eared animal, hold a
flashlight against the outside of the ear.