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  Miniature Hereford Breeders Association

How to Tattoo

As with any project, you want to make sure that you have all the supplies you will need to do the job as well as having the knowledge of how actually complete it.

One element that is important to keep an accurate record of on your Ranch is what tattoos are given and to whom. The tattoo that you give an individual animal will be its legal form of identification (only second to branding). You will need this number to be able to register any of your cattle with the American Hereford Association (AHA) as well as prove identity at some Miniature Hereford shows. Proper identification at birth and legible tattoos are essential to maintaining accurate parentage and production records of Hereford cattle. A legible tattoo is also a requirement for registering an animal with the AHA. Hereford breeders were the first to adopt the ear tattoo as a requirement for registry.

The way that I keep track of the assigned tattoos for my herd is by entering them in my personal record book...here is an example of what you could use to record your tattoos and identify the cow it was assigned to. You can also find the records of tattoos for your herd through the AHA. 

When deciding how to design your tattoo number system there are many things to consider. The most important thing is that it must make sense to you and you should use the same method consistently throughout the years.  Remember that the AHA year code changes annually, and although that digit is not required to be part of your tattoo numbering system, it is highly recommended.

As one example of a tattoo number system, we utilize a simple, four-digit structure. The first digit represents the first letter in our last name, the next two digits are the number code for that calf (first calf in each year would be 01, the second calf is 02, etc.), and the last digit is of course the AHA year code letter.  So for example the fourth calf born in the year 2019 would have the tattoo number...H04G...see, it is simple. 

Again, tattoo numbering systems can be unique for each ranch, but should remain consistent from year to year.

When you are ready to tattoo cattle, here is a list of general supplies that you will need:

  • Rag
  • Alcohol
  • Scissors
  • Toothbrush
  • Tattoo plyers
  • Tattoo ink
  • Tattoo digits 
  • Lightweight cardboard


  1. Gather all of the needed supplies.

 2) Place tattoo digits in pliers


   3) Practice on cardboard to make sure it is                         correct before using in ear. 


   4) Clean tattoo plier and digits before each use.  


5) Clip extra hair out of ear to make it easier                      to properly place the tattoo.


6) Clean earwax out of ear.

7) Ink ear before tattooing use plenty of ink.                                             

8) You will place the tattoo in the first wide ridge                  of the ear.

9) Tattoo ear.

10) Re-ink over tattoo.

11) Use a toothbrush to rub ink into tattoo.

 12) Check to see if tattoo is visible.



You can ear tag a calf at any time after birth. We usually wait until the calf is a day or two old at least, but many will tag them right after birth.  When we ear tag, we usually use the smaller white tags so that the calf is not as likely to get it caught and ripped out of the ear. This first tag has the calf herd ID, name, date of birth and moms name on it. The herd ID number is placed on this first tag to make it easy to know what their tattoo will be. We also put moms name on it so when we are separating the herd into different groups we are able to get the right calf with the right mom...important if you have more than a couple of cow/calf pair in your herd!  We will replace the small white ear tag with a new larger permanent tag at weaning. 

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