Animal Tattoo Identification / Pig Tattoo kits

Ketchum's tattoo equipment gives you the means to permanently and positively identify your livestock. Tattoos are a great back-up solution in the event that a livestock tag is lost. It can be difficult to identify your animals that are the same breed, so tattoos can prevent any confusion between the livestock.

It's recommended you use redundant identification methods for this very reason - and a good way to go about that is to use both tattooing and livestock tagging. Effective methods include a numeral system to organize your livestock.

Our animal tattoo equipment is designed to make the process as easy and as fast as possible. We offer both animal tattoo ink and the tools to apply the tattoos to your animals. Our animal tattoo kits are advanced and effective in preventing tearing and scratching from livestock moving during the process.

View: Animal Tattoo Equipment
Animal Tattoo Equipment

Equipment designed to create a permanent identification tattoo on animals.

View: Animal Tattoo Inks
Animal Tattoo Inks

Tattoo Inks and pastes for animal identification.

View: Hog Accessories
Hog Accessories

Hog Accessories

The Roots of Pig Tattoo Identification

As far back as 15,000 years ago—even before the advent of organized agriculture—our Neolithic ancestors hit on the idea of domesticating animals. Almost certainly the first wild creature to undergo the transformation from competitor to partner was the dog, a predator whose pack animal instincts made for a natural fi­t with human hunters, not just as companions but as skilled helpers. Soon after, pigs and then sheep, goats, and cattle were also being kept by people for a ready supply of food and fur in times of hunting scarcity. And thus was born the art of animal husbandry.

Over time, as the practice spread and developed among human settlements, and more wild creatures were “tamed” and added to the roster of domesticated animals, it became clear that a method was needed to identify individual members of the growing herds and flocks of livestock in the care of farmers. This was done partly just to keep track of them should any go astray, but also to protect against theft.

We know from the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi and Egyptian hieroglyphics that these ancient peoples had early on established systems of marking their livestock for identification purposes, whether by hot-branding or by etching marks into the horns of cattle. Since the practice of human body modification with tattoos predates written history, it stands to reason that eventually livestock would be marked with tattoos as well as a means of identifying them.

Hog Tattooing: A Beginner’s Guide

In modern times there are a variety of methods used to identify pigs, including ear-notching and paint, along with collars and tags (both electronic and non-electronic). By far the most common method, however, involves marking the pig by means of a tattoo. This is typically done with a special type of plier (for marking the ear) or a hammer-like “slapper” (for the shoulder or back). These tools are equipped with spiked dies of various sizes (appropriate for the age, gender, and ultimate destination of the pig, whether breeding farm or abattoir) that imprint on the skin a series of numbers and/or letters, which are then recorded for later identification. Nowadays, convenient pig tattoo kits are available commercially for this purpose from livestock tattoo equipment vendors.

The color ink used largely depends on the type of pig. Green ink tends to show up better on lighter-skinned breeds. Black ink is used almost exclusively for pigs destined for slaughter.

Animal Tattooing FAQs

  • Why is animal identification important?

    Properly identifying livestock animals isn’t just an important herd management practice, it is an essential one. Using a reliable and accurate identification system enables the farmer to establish ownership of the animals and also to maintain comprehensive records regarding breeding, milk and meat production, and the health of individual animals and of the herd overall.

  • Besides tattooing, what other methods of livestock identification are there?

    Animal identification methods can be divided into two categories: permanent and impermanent. Examples of permanent identification include microchips implanted under the surface of the skin, ear-notching, branding, and tattooing. On the other hand, external tags and transponders, poultry wing and leg bands, chalk, paint, and similar temporary markings are examples of impermanent livestock identification systems.

  • Which livestock identification system is best?

    There is no single “best” system. The method(s) chosen will depend upon a number of factors, such as budget, type and number of animals in the herd, geography and prevailing climate, government and breed-association regulations, and of course the farmer’s primary reason for identifying the livestock in the first place. Tattooing, however, remains one of the most common, reliable, and cost-effective ways of identifying porcine livestock.

  • What kind of animals can be tattooed?

    Historically, there is practically no limit to the kinds of animals that can been tattooed. Pigs by far are the ones most frequently marked in this way; though most horse breeds that race in North America may also be tattooed for identification purposes (inside the upper lip). Beyond that, in the past various species of dogs, cats, cows, sheep, goats, foxes, chinchillas, rabbits, laboratory rats and mice, monkeys, turkeys, alligators, and even fish, just to name a few, have been successfully tattooed.

While ear tags may be a perfectly reliable way to identify one’s livestock, they do sometimes fall off. Therefore, redundancy in this regard is always advisable. You can’t go wrong when your hogs are marked with an indelible, recognizable, and lifelong tattoo.

Here are the basic steps involved in hog-tattooing:

  1. Purchase a high-quality pig tattoo kit from Ketchum Mfg. Co.
  2. To prevent contamination when it’s time to tattoo your pigs, ensure that the tattoo dies are dust-free, clean, and sanitized.
  3. Ready the pigs for tattooing. Clean the area to be tattooed and disinfect it with rubbing alcohol.
  4. Insert the dies as needed into the plier or slapper.
  5. If the ear is to be tattooed, use a tattoo plier.
    Make sure the animal is restrained to prevent tearing or other injury. Apply a generous amount of ink to the outside of the ear. Then quickly and firmly squeeze the tattoo plier on the ear, making sure all the die needles have penetrated the skin. After you remove the plier, gently rub the ink into holes made by the dies, and clean off any remaining excess ink. The skin will heal over the pierced areas, leaving a permanent visible tattoo.
  6. If the back or shoulder is to be tattooed, use a hog slapper.
    Generously coat the dies of the slapper with ink from an ink pad. Aim for a flat surface on the back or shoulder of the animal, with the intent of making a vertical or near-vertical mark. A full-swing of the hammer is not necessary to make a clear tattoo, as the weight of the hammer in its downward motion is sufficient to allow the dies to penetrate the skin and leave behind a clearly legible tattoo.

Below are two videos illustrating each of these hog-tattooing techniques.

Instructions for Tattooing a Pig’s Ear with a Plier

Instructions for Tattooing a Pig’s Back or Shoulder with a Hog Slapper