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  • Writer's pictureLionel's Vet

Animal identification


Animal identification

According to the Animal Identification Act (Act No 6 of 2002), "marking" is the placement of an identifying mark on an animal but excludes marks on the horn or hoof, paint marks, ear tags, notches and holes. That leaves branding and tattooing with various livestock equipment items you will need.

Keeping animals for financial gain requires registration with the Department of Agriculture, and failure to do so is a crime. In addition, marking animals without being registered, including marking otherwise as permitted by the Act, is an offense.


WHEN TO TATTOO AND WHEN TO BRAND?

TATTOO

BRAND

CALVES

> one month

> six months and before permanent incisors (MUST be marked by six months)

SHEEP

Must be done at 4 weeks

Never

GOATS

Must be done at 4 weeks

Never

PIGS

Must be done at 4 weeks

Never

OSTRICHES

> one month

> six months

HORSES

> six months

> 12 moths

THE TATTOO PROCESS


Clean the inside of the ear and position the pins of the tattoo pliers. The black pad of the tattoo pliers must be behind the ear, then press pliers firmly so that pins pierce the skin. Apply ink to the inside of the ear, rubbing it in with your thumb and then leaving it to dry (no ink goes on the pliers!). Don't use a toothbrush to rub in the ink and don't wipe the ear with a cloth after tattooing. Excess ink will disappear in 1-2 weeks.

Tattoo letters are sharp, nickle-plated steel needles set in a fibre glass reinforced nylon base.

Green tattoo ink is recommended for dark skin and black ink for lighter skin. Below are the livestock equipment you will need.


THE BRANDING PROCESS


Brand with a single iron to ensure correct pressure for each letter at a time. Hot irons are placed on skin without extra pressure and only long enough to get a light brown colour (too long causes tissue damage), ensuring a permanent brand mark.

Time guide

  • Calf - 1 second

  • Young cattle/breeds with thin skin - 1,5 seconds

  • Adult cattle - 3 seconds

Burnt skin and hair creates an ash layer on branding letters - brush with a steel brush before returning it to the oven. Steam causes blotched marks so never brand on wet skin.

Choose the right branding equipment

  • Bronze-alloy letters heats up fast with excellent heat retention.

  • Stainless-steel letters with a medium-length handle ensures a better feel for the branding process.

  • Branding ovens fit on a standard gas bottle.


THE MARKING PROCESS


Tag marking is used for management, which is essential for good herd yield, but branding or tattooing is the legal requirement as it denotes ownership.

Ear notching is used to identify individual animals and helps to track herd performance, ie. deciding which animals to sell or cull is made easy by tracking a cow's history of calves.


INFOTAG: Which tag for which animal?

SHEEP, GOAT, PIG, SMALL GAME, OSTRICH

CATTLE, LARGE & SMALL GAME

DAIRY

SFSM

F3M1

F4M1

F1M1

F4M1

F5M1

F2M1

F3M3

F4M3

Leader Tag

F4M3

F5M3

F3M1 (calves)

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