On our farm, every bovine critter gets an eartag – no, not an earring. Though when the tags are new and bright and clean, they do look quite nice! Referring back to the video, “Moving Cows”, you heard me mention getting a calf’s eartag put in. As I reviewed the video myself, I noticed that we have a cow who has lost her tag. Have to get one put back in tomorrow (I hope Matt found the tag that fell out so we know what # to put back in) when we give her spring shots and deworm!
So why would we put a tag in every animal’s ear? The information on that tag holds their life history & their name (kind of). Oh ya – there are a handful that really do have names like Ellie and Silver and Belle and Tillie and Mimi and the most prescious ones, Clover and Beauty. However, those are just the ones who have been 4-H projects for the kids and have become a bit more pet-like than any normal rancher would want their cows to be! Beauty has not been shown and she has an interesting life-story of her own; I’ll save that one for another day.
Alright, back to the purpose of the tags. Each cow has a number, which could be considered her name. That number is for management purposes. The first digit indicates the year she was born (if she came from our own herd). We have purchased some cow-calf pairs to grow our herd and we just left the numbers the previous owner used. The next digits indicate the cow family. So, cow #293 was born in 2002 (she is reaching the end of her years) and her mom is #93, which is one of the first cows we bought when we were starting out. When calves are born, they immediately get an eartag with lots of information on it! That tag will hold their mama’s number, the sire of the calf, the date the calf was born, and our brand. When we send pairs out to grass, we definitely want to make sure we have the right mama’s with the right babies – the tags help us get it right.
Next – why do we have different colored tags in the cows? We are truly a family operation and the cows get ran together for part of the year. So, Matt & I have green tags, Kaydee & Emmet have yellow tags, and Matt’s brother has red tags. In addition, Matt and his brother still have a few cows together and those ears are adorned with purple tags. Oh yes – a record keeping challenge! However, between Matt & I with some help from the kids, we do manage to keep everything straight.
Next time you are driving through the country and see a herd of cows, you will know that they each have their own identity in the herd if they are wearing ear tags.
Now – I’m off to help Matt and the kids vaccinate and tattoo the kids’ cows and calves. Pictures and stories from that tomorrow…