Is That Cow Wearing Earrings?

Posted on Wednesday, April 6, 2016 by Andrew

Earrings are one word for them – but around the farm, those things in a cow’s ears are actually called ‘ear tags’. Ear tags come in all different shapes & sizes, but have the same purpose. They help identify each and every cow. In Canada, it is mandatory that every cow has a radio-frequency tag that is the size of a large button.

An example of a 'button tag' that using radio-frequency technology to help identify the cow.

An example of a ‘button tag’ that using radio-frequency technology to help identify the cow.

As an example, when a cow passes by a radio-frequency reader – it will say who that cow is. The law in Canada requires that that tag helps keep track of where the animal was born, when they were transported and other farms or barns that they’ve lived. However, the tag help a farmer keep track of even more information. Those tags can bring up a medical record that could include if they’ve been sick & what medication they received to get better. It could even tell a robotic milk feeder when the last time a calf was up to drink & how much more to give.

Beyond the radio-frequency piece of an ear tag, many cows also have ‘panel tags’. These come in all kinds of colours and can include numbers and letters that help a farmer identify the animal in the herd, which cow or bull they belong to, and when they were born.

An example of a panel tag. The small numbers identify the animal in Canada (every registered Holstein has a unique number). The large number identifies her in our herd.

An example of a panel tag. The small numbers identify the animal in Canada (every registered Holstein has a unique number). The large number identifies her in our herd.

For example, our cows all have a unique ‘herd number’ that is three digits. It helps us keep them separate, especially when there may be two or three that have similar markings – that we have trouble telling apart from a distance. (Although our model here, Dawn, would be offended if she thought we didn’t know who she was)

Now you know!

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About Andrew

Social media is becoming a useful tool for many people, and as a farmer, Andrew is no different. Today, Andrew works alongside his parents on their dairy farm, and he started using social media to share the farm’s story with non-farming Ontarians. In addition, he is helping teach farmers and others working in agricultural about the value of social media on the farm.

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