Even if you weren’t raised around livestock, you’ve probably noticed something hanging from those cows’ ears. Those aren’t fashion accessories, they are a part of ag-business management and our food-safety system in the US.
Just like with humans, cattle are identified by gender. The guys are either bulls (uncastrated males) or steers (castrated males). The gals are either cows (females who’ve calved more than once) or heifers (females who’ve not calved or have their first calf). When these bovines are still babies/calves we identify them as heifer calves or bull calves.
Are ya with me?
The things you see hanging from the ears of cattle are identification tags. Many ranches have also implemented age-and-source-verified programs in which they use Electronic Identification (EID) or Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags. We’ll talk about those in another post, and you can learn a little about it from Jim Hellyer in this post.
At the Meike Ranch near Kaycee, Wyo., heifers have one tag in each ear. The identification tag is on the left ear and the right ear has a tag (which looks like a metal clip) which shows the animal has been vaccinated for Brucellosis, a disease that causes cattle to abort their fetuses. Males wear their identification tag in the right ear.
The ear tags come in a variety of colors and are numbered. The Meike’s use the same number to identify the cow and her calf. They also often change the color of the ear tag each year. So, just by looking at the ear tag, you can tell the gender of the animal, the year they were born, and which cows and calves belong together. Easy identification of each animal helps the rancher keep their business records accurate and makes for a safer food supply.
To learn more, you should also head over to the Double H Photography blog where RealRancher Heather Hamilton explains how her family uses ear tags.
From RealPartner Liz Lauck – Wyoming Stock Growers Association