Sunday, September 25, 2016

Homegrown Tattooing And Tagging

One of the things which I've found most difficult is tattooing and tagging the ears of the calves. The tattooing is required for registering them as purebred Red Polls and the ear tag is necessary for me (and future owners) to tell them apart. When Rosella was born two years ago, I walked out into the field and tattooed her ears before she was old enough to object. Alas, that has never worked since, either because I couldn't find where the mom had hidden her calf or because the mom wouldn't leave them alone. This year, Rosella's first baby, Tabitha, was three weeks old before I got her locked in the barn and called the neighbors to come over and give me a hand. This is what Tabitha looked like before her tattoo:

Tabitha was a bucking bronco of a calf and I only was able to slip a rope around her neck and tie it to a steel post. She soon dislodged the post so I moved her to another post:

She continued to fight at the new post so I tried to comfort her. But she wanted no part of it and resisted with everything she had. When the neighbors came over, it took three of us to wrestle her onto the ground and hold her steady:

I applied green tattoo ink to the insides of her ears and then squeezed the tattoo pliers shut, poking holes into the skin with ink in them. I then added a red plastic tag to her right ear and sent her out to Rosella, her mother. She immediately wanted to nurse. There was ink around her eyes, making her look a bit like an alien panda:

Rosella nuzzled her, winding up with green ink on her nose, but the job was done - my own private little rodeo:

I wanted to find an easier way for the next calf, so when Maggie was born, I'd already made a "calf catcher" by lining the hay bale feeder with plastic snow fence and hanging it from the tractor's bale spear. I was ready to go:

When Maggie was one day old, I drove the tractor out to where the cattle were lounging and dropped the catcher over her. I'd brought along a ladder to get me in and out of the ring, so I wrestled little Maggie to the ground by myself and tattooed her ears, adding an ear tag when I was finished. Her mom, Scarlett, couldn't get in and Maggie couldn't get out. It worked quite well. When done, I released her and she immediately ran to Scarlett to nurse. That's why there's milk foam in her mouth:

The poor little thing was a bit traumatized, but I think it was less so at one day old than at three weeks:

Red Polls are great mothers and take good care of their babies. They also have an abundance of milk, which surely helps:

Poor little Maggie was covered with green for a week or so but recovered well:

As the excess green slowly faded, she began to look better and better. She had again just finished nursing when I took this picture, and there was milk foam in her mouth and splattered on her side. Now all the wrestling and rodeo is over, the calves are marked in the required manner and they are free to live a happy life with their mother and their herd:


  1. I was betting on Tabitha to win while I was reading. She lives up to her name as does Maggie.

    1. Indeed, there were moments during the tattooing when I thought she might win!