Tattooing Cattle for Registration | Tips from Stock Show University

If you have a pasture full of 100 Purebred Shorthorn cows, what is the most effective way to keep track of which cow is which? Most will provide the answer of, “An Ear Tag.” BUT, what if the ear tag falls out? Proper, permanent identification is essential when cattle are being registered through a breed association or when there is a transfer of ownership. Effective identification can also allow producers to keep proper records on herd performance to monitor genetic improvements. During this Stock Show University tip, we will be discussing the different types of identification for cattle and the “Ins and Outs” of tattooing.


There are two types of identification when IDing cattle: permanent and non-permanent. Ear tattooing is considered one of the easiest, most effective forms of permanent animal identification that a breeder can do. The one disadvantage of tattooing is that individuals can not see the tattoo from a distance, so individuals have to physically look into the ear to see their identification. Even though a tattoo is recommended and required for registration, most producers still use a secondary method of identification on that animal as well, like an ear tag.


The process of tattooing allows for a series of numbers or letters to be permanently placed, most commonly in the animal’s ear, using sharp, needle-like projections that pierce through the skin using a specially designed set of pliers, called a tattoo gun. Tattoo ink is then forced into the puncture marks and remains visible after the puncture wounds heal.


If you visit the American Shorthorn Association’s website, you can get a proper, step-by-step description of all the steps that you need to do when properly tattooing a calf for registration. (


FOR YOUR RECORDS: Like mentioned before, tattooing allows for a series of numbers or letters to be permanently placed. The letter for the 2023-2029 are as followed: 2023 – L, 2024 – M, 2025 – N, 2026 – P, 2027 – R, 2028 – S, 2029 – T.


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