So let’s start with the obvious question, why tattoo at all? Even though it is not a fun job, I would encourage every goat owner to get their animal tattooed. This is important method of identification. Even if you only have a goat in your backyard and never want to take your goat across state lines or even down the road, things can happen. You never know when a goat is going to discover a weak point in your fence and push its way under the fence for a tour of the neighborhood. And, much sadder, there are always the case of stolen animals. I once had a young animal taken directly from its pen and thankfully I was able to tell the police that, yes I did have a defining mark on it – it had already been tattooed. Why not microchips you ask? Well for pets this is a great option, but the reality of having a working herd of dairy goats is that not all animals will forever be a pet and microchips could become a big problem if the goat ever entered the meat market.
So how do you begin? Well first you wait. The Toggs and Saanens could probably get tattooed at a day old (although we try to group them so they are usually around 3 weeks) but the Lamanchas need time to grow those tails. We don’t usually bother tattooing them until at least 2 months old. You want to make sure there is enough tissue on both sides of the bone so that you can get letters into the tail. In my opinion it is better to lose a jr leg on 1 month old kid because she has no tattoo then to have to re-tattoo her at 1 year old because the tattoo is no longer readable.
So the first step is cleaning the tail. You will want at least 1 helper for the whole procedure. Although it is possible to do it solo – it is not fun or easy. Have your helper secure the hind of the kid. Whether this means putting the kid’s head in the milk stand and securing its back legs and rump or if it means holding the kid between the helper’s legs so that the kid’s legs can be held and the helper’s legs secure the middle section so the kid can’t go running forward. Clean the tail with rubbing alcohol so that it does not have dirt or anything to block the pins. Baby wipes work well to clean all the dirt off and then a paper towel or second baby wipe with alcohol to sterilize the area. Once the tail is clean keep hold of the kid so it can’t go running around and get dust in your clean work.
|Cleaning the tail|
|Clean and alcohol sterilized tail|
Once the tail is clean, have the helper hold the tail up, but don’t stretch it tight. When you stretch it you take away skin that you can punch. Ideally you want the tattoo positioned about 2/3 of the way down the tail. It is hard to read when it is hidden in the tail web, but it is harder to read when it is up near the end of the tail because there is not enough skin. Find a place where you can reach enough skin to punch successfully. You can line it up over and over again before you punch – but you only want to punch once.
|Add the pliers up before you punch|
Once you have the tail still and the pins lined up, punch. Punch ONCE! And Punch HARD! It is supposed to bleed a little. If it doesn’t bleed you may not have punched hard enough. At least there should be holes that you can see easily in the tail.
|Aim for towards the center of the tail web or 2/3 down from the end of the tail. (you should be able to see the holes in this skin on the right side of the picture)|
Once you have punched one side take your pliers back and swap letters. You could start rubbing ink into the side you just punched, but we find that the pliers and the tattoo letters stay cleaner if you do all the punching and then rub the ink in. Punch the other side the same way that you punched the first side.
|Line up for second punch|
|There will be blood - that is alright, it means you got a good clean punch.|
Once you have punched both sides, rub ink all over the tail and rub hard into the holes. I have always found a finger works better than a brush or anything like that because you can really push the ink into the holes.
|Rub the ink in well so that you cannot see the dots any more.|
Finally let the poor tortured kid go and eat something – they always feel better after food. Ideally you want to leave the tail alone until the ink falls off on its own. This is ensure the proper healing occurs. Don’t wipe it off just for curiosity sake – you will just mess with it, better to wait several weeks so that you have a good tattoo.