How-to Tattoo & Tag Your Lambs
I love the cage unit sold by Sydell (www.sydell.com) It is expensive but will allow one person to work sheep by themselves. I use the head catch part of the chute to secure the lambs for tattooing.
You can tattoo even if you don't have this head catch. You will need a chair for one person to sit in and position the sheep on it's butt in a sitting-up position with the legs away from you and fit snuggly between your legs. The sitting person holds each front leg to secure the lamb while another person does the tattooing. This is most difficult on horned lambs because when they are struggling they may bruise the person holding the sheep with their horns. You might want to get some leather chaps to protect your legs.
The head catch work so well that you will want to get one eventually when you can afford it.
Spray alcohol to clean the wax from the skin. The wax will prevent the ink from penetrating for a good tattoo so do a good job of removing it. Rub the alcohol off with a clean dry cloth to clean the wax and dirt from the tattoo area. I buy a cheap sprayer head that will screw on the alcohol bottle.
Use a 5/16th size tattoo pliers, numbers and letters. You will need 2 sets of numbers and a set of letters. Do not get the revolving pliers because it is too bulky to use. I got mine tattoo equipment from Jeffers. They mail order and have fast delivery. Many other places sell the equipment. I keep my tattoo letters and numbers in an ice cube tray with numbered compartments for easy sorting. I have one plier for my flock code and one plier for putting in the flock number and year letter. This makes tattooing go faster. It is nice to have a table to set all of the stuff on for easy sorting. I also have a clip board with paper and pen for record what I am doing and make any comments. I use a chair that I sit on in front of the lamb while I am tattooing.
There are 3 main veins in the sheep's ear. Two of the main ones run the length of the ear. It is between these 2 main veins that there is space to tattoo. I usually wait to tattoo my sheep till they are about 5 to 6 months of age. That is because their ears grow bigger and make more room for tattooing. Also the tattoo seems to last longer when done to an older lamb. The ear may bleed after perforating the ear with the tattoo letters or numbers. This is OK and won't affect the tattoo or hurt the sheep.
For registration with the CLRC (www.clrc.ca) the sheep must have your flock code tattooed in the sheep's RIGHT ear. So my flock code SRX is tattooed in the sheep's right ear.
The flock number which I have assigned to the lamb is tattooed in the sheep's LEFT ear followed by the year letter. So the first lamb born on my farm in 2007 may be given the number of 1 by me, and followed by the year letter of "T" which is the year letter for 2007. (The CLRC doesn't use letters that look like numbers such as O and L). So this lamb would be 1T. This would be tattooed in the lambs LEFT ear. This numbering is used also to register the lamb so keep a record of what you do.
I use green ink to tattoo as it shows up better in all colors of ears. That said, tattoos don't show up very well in black ears no matter what color of ink that you use. Use a toothbrush with plenty of tattoo ink on it and scrub that ink in well.
This tagger is for the old style Scrapie tags made by Alflex which I like because I can write the sheep's flock number on the back of the tag with permanent ink for further identification. They are available from Alflex. To get them you will have to ask your federal vet to OK the making of Scrapie tags for your flock. Ask your federal vet about this. You can get free smaller Scrapie tags for your sheep by contacting your Federal vet and joining the Scrapie program. Your local vet can give you the contact info for your federal vet. Scrapie tags are needed if you show or sell sheep.
I put in the Scrapie tag after I tattoo the lamb. The placement of the tag is important. If it is not placed correctly it is more liable to be pulled out when the sheep sticks it's head through a fence. I place mine in the area below the 2 main veins and close to the head. Look at the photo below for best placement.