wikiHow to Tag Cattle

Tagging is an important part of animal identification as it helps a producer or farmer to identify a certain animal for reproductive and health concerns, as well as for culling and selling. Tagging sounds simple enough but it must be done properly. Tagging an animal is very similar to a human getting their ears pierced. Learn how to properly tag your animals and maintain proper care afterwords by reading the following steps below.


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    Properly secure the animal to apply the tag. Movement of the animal's head could create an undesirable situation when trying to properly apply a tag or button. This could result in injury to either the person or animal or both, and may also result in improper tagging of the animal.
    • For cattle the best equipment to use is a chute with a head gate, or even a squeeze chute. Place a halter, and/or nose lead or ring on the animal and tie the lead rope to the side of the head gate tight enough so that it impedes the animal to move its head as you apply the tag or button.
    • For young calves, a head gate is not needed. Simply putting the calf on its side by bending over the calf, grabbing the flank and neck and hoisting it onto its side, then pinning it with your knee on its neck is sufficient when tagging it.
      • Tagging should be left for last when you have the calf on the ground, since the applicator often will cause a calf to become a bit more vocal than you like, particularly when its momma is close at hand.
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    Identify the tagging site on the animal's ear. Tags should be applied in the middle third of the ear between the upper and lower ribs. It is important, when using electronic identification (EID) or Radio-Frequency identification (RFID) tags or buttons, to apply the visual panel or male portion on the outside-back part of the ear and the button or tag, which is the female portion, on the inside of the ear.
    • Also make sure that the last few digits of visual panel matches with the digits on the button or tag.
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    Keep the applicator clean to prevent infection. Use rubbing alcohol or a disinfectant solution to clean the jaw and pin portion of the applicator before and after use. You should also clean the tagging area of the animal's ear.
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    Place each half of the tag or button onto the applicator. The visual panel stud must be inserted completely onto the applicator pin and the panel/button portion placed under the opposite clip.
    • Often a new tagger applicator will have a sticker or indentation on that tagger telling which end is which when placing the parts of the tag on. If not, the best rule of thumb to go by is that the point part goes over the pin and the tag or button on the other end. Also make sure the front of the tag or pin is facing away from the male end of the stud, not towards it. Thus is much easier to remember if you have bought tags that already have a bar-code and number on them.
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    Check the alignment of the tagger. This must be done before you tag. Simply close the jaw of the applicator to the point where to the two halves just meet. The stud should be in line with the hole of the button or tag.
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    Position the applicator in the identified tagging site on the animals ear. Firmly and quickly close the applicator and release. You will hear a loud click when the stud goes completely into the hole, and upon releasing the tagger the tag or button will have stayed in place.
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    Examine the tag. This is to verify that it's correctly, comfortably, and securely positioned. Once satisfied, you may want to record the number of that particular animal for future reference.
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    Repeat for the other ear. Quite often a producer will need to have a button in one ear and a tag in the other. Some will go as far as placing one tag in each ear. Regardless, you have the option to put in as many tags or buttons as you feel necessary.
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    Let the animal go. Once the tag or button is in, it should stay there for years to come. Note that buttons tend to last longer than tags.


  • Make sure the tag is in the proper position. Too far out and the tag will be easily ripped out or torn. Too far in will result in pinching and/or necrosis of the ear.
  • Check the alignment of the pin on the tagger. Bent or broken pins will cause a lot more stress than necessary. If the pin is broken or bent, you don't need to throw out the tagger and buy a new one. Replacement pins are available to be purchased at your local feed store to replace that which is broken or bent.
  • Some may wish to go the extra mile to apply a topical application of hydrogen peroxide to the wound every day until it heals up, for five to seven days then a couple extra weeks until it heals completely. However, this is may only be doable for those who can work their livestock on a daily basis and are willing to do the extra work. But with the majority of cattle producers, this is just an extra chore to do and would much rather let the area heal by itself.
    • Quite frankly it is actually a far more common practice to stick the tag in and leave it instead of running calves through every day to clean the wound.


  • Tags placed too far inside of the rerecorded position may cause pinching and/or necrosis.
  • Tags placed too far outside the recommended position are prone to snagging and may easily be torn out.
  • Tags that are placed in the wrong position will also cause pain to the animal, either from ripping of the tag or pinching and/or necrosis.

Things You'll Need

  • Tagger or tag applicator
  • Livestock ear tags or buttons
  • Disinfectant such as Dettol
  • Hydrogen peroxide or a similar cleaner for use on skin of cattle
  • Marker for tags(if number isn't on it already)

Article Info

Categories: Cattle