Tattooing Goats Ears




About Marc MacDonald

I’ve been raising goats for nearly 20 years now. Over those years, I accumulated a lot of information about goats and what works and what doesn’t.

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If you are getting into goat ownership, you are going to need to learn about a lot of different things. Tattooing goats’ ears is just one of many important things that you need to know about caring for these animals. 

Tattooing goats ears

If you have not heard of this practice, or you are unfamiliar with it, there may be a few questions running through your mind. Are you required by law to tattoo your goat’s ears? How do you do it? What are you tattooing onto your goats’ ear? Well, in this article we aim to answer these questions and more. So, without further ado, let us dive right in and get started!

Why is Tattooing a Goat’s Ear Important?

Tattooing is a popular way to permanently ID goats, especially in goat breed associations. This method is easy to do, and the recovery time is much faster than other methods, such as tagging. Legally goats may need permanent identification like this for the following reasons: 

  • The animal is crossing state lines.
  • When the animal is being sold at markets or auctions. 
  • When a goat is changing owners. 

These are the times that permanent ID is legally required. But it can be a useful way to keep track of your goats, especially if the goat gets lost as a result of natural disasters. It is also a good way to tell whether a goat has been stolen or not. 

There are a lot of reasons why tattooing goats ears is important, and it is certainly something that you need to know about if you want to get into goat ownership.

What Does a Goat Tattoo Mean?

A goat ear tattoo is used to identify an animal. Just like a brand is used on a horse or cow, a tattoo is used on some animals’ ears or the web of the tail to identify the goat. 

Usually in the right ear of the goat there will be a tattoo which represents the farm the animal was born on, and in the right ear there will be a letter which represents the year the animal was born and what its birth order is. These numbers are then used to register and identify the animals.

What is the Best Age to Tattoo Your Goat’s Ears?

You can technically tattoo your goat at any age. But it is easier when they are younger. The older a goat is, the harder it will be to keep their head still while you are doing this painful procedure. It is best to tattoo your goat’s ear before eighteen months. In fact, when you are disbudding your goat you can also tattoo your goat’s ears. 

Do You Only Tattoo Your Goat’s Ears?

There are actually two places on a goat that you can put these identification tattoos. The ears and the tail web. Which one you go for will be dependent on the breed of goat that you have. For example if you have a goat like the Lamancha, which has no ears, you will have no choice but to tattoo on the web of the tail. 

When you are tattooing your goat, you will need to take care which ear you put certain information on. It is common practice to put the farm tattoo on the right ear and on the left ear you will put the year letter and the birth order of the goat. 

What Do You Need to Tattoo Your Goat?

Now that you know a bit about goat ear tattooing it is important that you know what you need to do this procedure. Below is a list of everything you will need for this process: 

  1. Tattoo Pliers –  This is the tool you will be using to tattoo your goat’s ears. You can get more than one if you have a lot of goats and have an extra pair of hands. 
  1. Tattoo Numbers – The numbers will be used to represent the number of goats you have and what order they were born in.
  1. Tattoo Letters – You can use these letters as a way to represent the year and for your farm tattoo. 
  1. Tattoo Ink for Animals – Make sure to use a brand that is well known for being safe for animals. You can use different colors for goats with different skin colors. 
  1. Toothbrush – You can use a toothbrush to push the ink into the tattoo holes and get it into the tips of the letters. 
  1. Alcohol for Sterilization –  The alcohol will be used to sterilize your goat’s ears and clean the equipment. 
  1. Baking Soda – You can use baking soda to set and dry up the ink. 
  1. Gloves –  To keep everything sterile and so that you do not get ink on your fingers. 
  1. Paper or Cardboard –  So that you can practice your tattoos to make sure that everything is right and facing the correct way. Tattoos are permanent!

There will be a letter which represents the year that your goat was born. These letters change so make sure that you have the right one selected for the year of your goat’s birth.

Tattooing goats ears

How Do You Tattoo a Goat’s Ears?

In this section we are going to take a look at how to tattoo your goat’s ears. It is not a very difficult process. But there are a few steps that you need to follow carefully to ensure that you do it right. 

Step 1 – Get Your Letters and Number Ready 

The first thing you are going to need to do is sterilize your tattoo letters and numbers. Once they are clean you can then place them in your pliers. Make sure that you have the right ones inserted in the pliers. 

Step 2 – Do a Test on Paper

Before you tattoo your goat’s ears, you need to make sure that everything is lined up properly and the letters are facing the right way. By doing a test you are making sure that everything looks right before committing. 

Step 3 – Secure Your Goat

Tattooing is not a pleasant process. So your goat will likely jerk when you try to tattoo their ear. As such you need to make sure that your goat is properly secured so that they do not jerk away and hurt themselves more. 

Step 4 – Clean the Goats Ears

Before you actually tattoo your goat’s ears, you need to make sure that the area is sterile and clean. So make sure to use your alcohol and rub away any dirt or wax in the area you are tattooing. 

Step 5 – Tattoo Your Goats Ears

When you are tattooing your goat’s ears you need to pay attention to the terrain of the ears. The veins and cartilage which run parallel to the ear will need to be avoided. So make sure that the tattoo is placed between the cartilage and veins. 

Rub some of the ink into an area that is flat and does not have prominent veins or cartilage. You will also need to ensure that your tattooing location does not have any scars, freckles or moles in it as this can distort the tattoo. 

Step 6 – Use the Toothbrush to Rub Ink into the Tattoo Letters

Rub ink into the tattoo letters and numbers using the toothbrush. We recommend that you use paste ink or liquid ink for this. 

Step 7 – Ensure You Are Tattooing the Right Ear

You need to be sure that you are putting the right information in the right ear. So remember, the farm tattoo will be on the right ear and the year letter and birth order will be in the left ear. Do not get this wrong.

Step 8 – Plier Placement

Get your pliers into position making sure that the needles are on the inside of the ear. You should ensure that the tattoo is placed in the bottom section of the ear and not the top side. 

Step 9 – Firmly Close the Pliers

Quickly yet firmly close the pliers. Just make sure that you have put the tattoo in the right place. If you tattoo over the veins you can cause excessive bleeding. 

Step 10 – Put More Ink in the Ear

Now you need to rub more ink vigorously over the holes for a few seconds with your thumb. This ensures that the ink totally fills the puncture holes. 

Step 11 – Rub baking Soda on the Ear

Rubbing baking soda on the ears after you have punctured and inked the ears will help the ink to dry faster. It can also be a great way to make the tattoo show up better once it has healed. 

Step 12 – Keep Note of the Kidding Dates and Other Details

You are going to need to keep track of the dates and order your kids were born so that you can accurately tattoo their ears. 


Nasco is a good place to purchase supplies for tattooing goats ears:

Click here to see tattoo pliers

Click here for tattoo numbers

Click here for tattoo ink

Video: Hot To Tattoo A Goat So They Can Be Registered

A must see video if you are considering tattooing your goats!

An informative video showing how Blue Cactus dairy goats get tattooed

Final Thoughts

We hope that you have enjoyed reading this article and learning about tattooing goats’ ears. This practice may seem strange and perhaps even cruel to those that do not understand the necessity of it. But it is something that you have to learn if you want to care for goats. 

As such, knowing the best way to do this is an important part of animal husbandry that you should take the time to learn. 

With all of that said, if you have enjoyed reading this article. We hope that you will take the time to check out our website. We have a selection of interesting and useful articles some of which you are bound to find useful to you.  

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