Forms of ID for goats:
Tattoos are considered permant identification by registries because once an animal is tattooed it is difficult to alter or change the tattoo. Tattoos at times can be hard to read unless you wet the ear with water and have adequate lighting. Tattooing guns are fairly inexpensive and can be purchased for around $30. The roll-on type ink is the easiest to use (green or colored ink shows up best on goats with dark pygment under the ears on on the tail web). Once the proper letters/numbers have been inserted into the tattoo gun and the tattoo has been placed on the underside of the ear (between the cords) or in the tail web, you simply apply the tattoo ink and your done. Be sure to administer tetanus before using this method of identification. I have never had a tattoo get infected or cause any future problems once it was done. The drawbacks to this method are that over time, tattoos can get faint and a little hard to read.
Ear tags are often a popular form of identification for livestock. However there are potential dangers of using this form of identification as well as drawbacks. We do not, nor have we ever, used ear tags for identification purposes. Our goats are tattooed on the underside of the ear for permanent identification. However with the constantly changing rules of the USDA State Scrapie program and to be in compliance with these rules, most breeders are forced to ear tag any animal that is going to be shown for exhibition. If you have to use ear tags be sure you know how to do it properly. Ear tags should be placed in the lower half of the ear where there is mostly cartilage not meat. Placing the ear tag too high in the ear will lead to problems healing. Also make sure the tag is placed between the cords (ridges running vertical on the underside of the ear). Once the ear tag is in, be sure to use rubbing alcohol around the post of the ear tag once a day for about a week to prevent infection and help the wound to dry and heal. Alcohol can be easily applied and quickly applied by filling a syringe with alcohol and squirting it around the post of the tag. This will allow you to use the same alcohol on different goats that have been ear taged while keeping the alcohol and syringe clean.
Ear tags often fall out or are torn out leaving and unsigtly hole or tear in the ear and they are not considered permanent identification because they can be removed and replaced. We do have several goats that were purchased from another breeder and they had ear tags when we bought them. Recently on of our tagged bucks was butting heads with another buck and I noticed some slight bleeding around the ear tag. This buck was vaccinated earlier with CD/T and the bleeding was minimal so we figured it would heal up and be fine in a few days. And within a few days, it looked fine and there was no cause for alarm. However approximately two weeks after this incident, I noticed that this buck was not himself. He was withdrawn from the herd and made very little effort to eat and did a lot of laying around. I didn't notice anything wrong with him other than the change in his behavior. About two days after the change in his behavior I noticed a tennis ball size lump around the ear tag that was filled with infection. We immediately removed the ear tag which was very difficult to do on a grown buck that was in severe pain. After the ear tag was removed we squeezed out as much of the infection as we could, cleaned the ear with peroxide and sprayed it with iodine. We then gave him Pen G for the infection. If this would have been left unattended, this buck would have died from the infection. After treatment, the next day, the buck was eating and butting heads and acting like his usual self again. Be aware of the dangers and potential risks of using ear tags especially on goats because they are more active and mischeivious than most other livestock.
Neck Cords or Plastic Chains:
I have known of several breeders that prefer to use the neck cords or plastic chains with a number on them for identification of livestock for their own personal use, this is not permanent identification. These work well and as long as they are the non-choking kind of neck cord or chain, they pose no danger to the animal that is wearing it. Be careful if you are planning to use this method to buy an approved brand of cord or chain that if a goat gets caught in something, it will break away from the neck so the animal does not strangle. The drawback to this method is that they are always getting lost and sometimes you wont find the number, cord or chain until years later while walking in the pastures.
Microchips are a little expensive (around $12-$22 each) but they serve as the most fool-proof form of identification. The Avid brand is the most commonly used brand today and they can be purchased at: http://www.countrysidepet.com Microchips are basically like giving each animal a serial number that can never be changed and that it will carry with it for the rest of its life. They are no bigger than a grain of rice and provide permanent identification. Most microchips are now inserted into the tail web because breeders previously inserted them between the shoulder blades of the goat and sometimes they would move around under the skin and end up somewhere on the left or right side of the goat which makes it difficult to scan when you can't find the chip. Inserting microchips into the tail web are just like giving a shot. The tail web was chosen because there is no where for the microchip to go should it move around and it is easier for scanning purposes. The drawbacks to this method are that scanners are very expensive and microchips can not be read unless you have the proper type of scanner.