I recently sent an email to the Miniature Dairy Goat Association and basically said, “I’m probably going to be fired from raising goats because I want to register my herd and haven’t for about 5 years. Is it even possible to register them now?” As I waited for the email reply, I realized I would have to Google “How to Tattoo a Goat”.
And then the nice lady responded that yes, it is possible to register my goats even though I had neglected to take the time to do it. I haven’t had a need for it until now, but I had a wonderful family buy a couple of my doelings to be used in 4-H, and of course, they want them registered!
So I needed to get myself in gear.
If you’re in the same boat as me and didn’t register your goats promptly, then good news, it’s not too late. The dairy goat associations have a great way to keep track of the years a goat was born, but we’ll get into that in a moment. All you have to do is have good records of your goat herd to know what year and what order your goats were born.
If you don’t have a good record-keeping system, then you’ll want to pick this up: My Goat Binder. It will be delivered to your door and can get your records in tip-top shape! In fact, I’ve added a new bonus with the step-by-step instructions all laid out for you to print out and reference over and over.
Watch the information in this article about how to tattoo a goat in the video provided below:
What does a goat tattoo mean?
Let’s first talk about what it means to register your goats and what a tattoo has to do with it. Like a brand on a horse or a cow, a tattoo in the ear or on the tail web of a goat is the identification of the owner of the goat and what goat it is.
In the right ear of the goat, the farm tattoo is placed and in the left ear is the letter of the year and the birth order number. These numbers are then used to register the goat and also to identify the goat.
What age do you tattoo a goat?
A kid can be tattooed at the time of disbudding and all the way up to adult. Goats can be more manageable and easier to hold the smaller they are and that can help while you’re giving them the tattoo.
When the plyers are closed and the tattoo is given, the goat will jerk their head away but a goat of any age can be tattooed.
Where do you tattoo a goat?
A tattoo can be given in two places:
- Tail Web
Both of these areas are acceptable tattoo areas and where you give the tattoo may just depend on the breed of goats you own. For instance, the Lamancha goats don’t have ears big enough to tattoo, so the tail web is used for them.
When you plan out your tattoo, you will put the…
- Right Ear: Farm Tattoo
- Left Ear: Year Letter and Birth Order Number
The dairy goat associations have a letter of the alphabet chosen to represent each year. For instance, the year 2020 is represented by the letter M and the letter N for 2021.
Goat tattoo kit and supplies
Now that we understand all the details about tattooing a goat, it’s time to get the supplies gathered.
This is what you will need to tattoo your goat:
- Tattoo plyers (you can buy this tattoo kit: Goat Tattoo Kit)
- Tattoo numbers (You may need several sets depending on how many goats you kid each year)
- Tattoo letters (Used for farm tattoo and letter representing year born.)
- Green tattoo ink (or black for white-skinned goats)
- Toothbrush (used to put ink on tips of letters and numbers and to push the ink into the tattoo holes)
- Alcohol (used to clean the goat’s ears and sterilize the numbers, letters, and plyers.)
- Baking soda (dries up the ink and sets the tattoo)
- Gloves! (or you will be a green martian!) This is a very messy process!
- Paper or cardboard to practice the tattoo on to make sure that it’s in the correct order and facing the correct way
If you have a large number of goats to do you may find it worth it to get two tattoo plyers so that you can leave your farm tattoo in and never change it and then use the other one to change the individual goat’s tattoo.
And depending on how many goats you have in a year, you may need to purchase several tattoo numbers to be able to do the double digits.
Yearly Goat Tattoo Letters
2010: A 2017: J 2024: S
2011: B 2018: K 2025: T
2012: C 2019: L 2026: V
2013: D 2020: M 2027: W
2014: E 2021: N 2028: X
2015: F 2022: P 2029: Y
2016: H 2023: R 2030: Z
How to Tattoo A Goat
Step 1: Prepare the Tattoo (letters in plyers)
Step 2: Test the tattoo on a piece of paper or cardboard to make sure it’s facing correctly and in the correct order
Step 3: Secure goat. Have someone hold the goat, put a kid in the disbudding box, tie them to a fence, or put them in the milk stand. (They will jerk!)
Step 4: Clean their ear to remove dirt and wax with the alcohol. (They don’t like their ears messed with.)
Step 5: Paying attention to the veins and cartilage that run parallel up and down the ear, place the green or black tattoo ink between the veins and cartilage with the toothbrush. Make sure there are no moles, scars, or freckles that could affect the outcome of the tattoo. And be sure to miss the veins because there could be heavy bleeding and it could botch the tattoo.
Step 6: Using the toothbrush, add ink to the tips of the tattoo letters. (Paste ink will work better than liquid ink.)
Step 7: Be sure that you place your farm tattoo in the right ear and the year letter and birth order number in the left ear.
Step 8: Place the tattoo plyers around the ear with the tattoo needles on the inside of the ear. You will want to put it on the ear from the bottom side of the ear, not the top side.
Step 10: Rub more tattoo ink vigorously over the holes for several seconds with your thumb.
Step 11: Optional: Rubbing baking soda onto the ear and ink will help dry up the ink and may help the tattoo show up easier.
Step 12: Write down all of your kidding dates, offspring details, and tattoo numbers in your goat management binder.
Dairy Goat identification
Once this is all done, you have a tattooed goat ready to be registered!
The tattoo will heal in the next 5-21 days and shouldn’t be touched or disturbed during this time. The tattoo ink will fade over time.
To read a tattoo, you may need a flashlight held to the backside of the ear especially on a dark-skinned goat.
With all this information, you’re ready to tattoo your goats and get them registered!