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To tag, or not to tag?

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Houston

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Each year I buy ear tags, and each year I wonder why I'm really spending that couple hundred bucks. I'm wondering if there are any folks out there that do NOT ear tag their cattle, and if so, how they manage them from year to year without the clear identification that a tag provides. We're calving about 130 this year of cross bred females bred to Murray Grey bulls.

Calving season is May and June. Calves will go over the winter on their mama. Some steers we'll sell as grass finished beef off of our place at 24 months, some we'll sell as yearlings to other grass finishers at about 12 months, some we'll take to the sale barn at 12 months. We'll keep back some of the heifers for replacements, and we'll sell the rest to individuals or at the sale barn later in the fall.

So, how do I manage this without tags? We've always used ear tags, but it's my understanding that tagging wasn't done much prior to the 1950's as the technology didn't exist at that time.

As we continually try to minimize our inputs and labor, I'm trying to question everything we do to see if it is something that really adds value at sale time, meaning that it was a net profit after labor and expenses for that input, or is it something that we're doing "just because". Some things I do just because I like to, or because they make my life easier, but they don't make me any money. I'm ok with that, but I don't want to fool myself into thinking that it's also making me money.

I've only been at this since 2005. I've learned a lot since then, and have a lifetime of learning ahead of me. I found this forum and noticed a lot of experienced ranchers out there that have "been there, done that". I don't like recreating wheels, and would much rather learn from other folks experience if possible.

Thanks for any inputs you might have.
 

hillsdown

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Hello Houston !

It is all about traceability and accountability ! You had better have some system if you ever want your animals entering the food chain.

RFID tagging every head of cattle is mandatory here in Canada. It is also mandatory in Alberta to age verify all of your calves with their corresponding RFID number .

If you do not want to tag cattle then the very least you should do is brand each animal with their "tag # for the year" in reference to their dam and sire ,as well as keep very detailed records of everything .

:tiphat:
 

WyomingRancher

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If we didn't run on a forest permit, and want every form of ID possible on these cattle, I don't think I'd tag. I'd just brand and year brand the heifer calves. If I treated something, I'd tag it. I like knowing who is related to who, but it's not information I absolutely need :wink: .
 

Faster horses

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We haven't always tagged. We knew the cows well enough and
didn't need to. However, it makes it faster and easier when others help pair out, etc because they don't know the cows.
I think once you start tagging, its easier to look at the tag numbers
instead of the cattle as individuals (which to me, isn't a good thing),
but whatever works!


We tagged for several years, but we were considering stopping it.
You do need to have some evidence of age, nowdays, tho.

Good luck!
 

Cowpuncher

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We calved in pastures of about a section. Tagging was a pain, so we didn't do it except for those that needed assistance or doctoring. We never kept heifers.

We always tagged the cows - twice - one in each ear.

I was always pleasantly surprised when the guys went out in late summer and sorted the steer pairs from the heifer pairs. It took a couple of days to sort 750 pairs. They drove the herd into a fence corner. Cows get nervous and pair up. Let the steer pairs get away and the heifer pairs are left. I think they missed one pair a couple of time.

CP
 

Faster horses

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Cowpuncher said:
We calved in pastures of about a section. Tagging was a pain, so we didn't do it except for those that needed assistance or doctoring. We never kept heifers.

We always tagged the cows - twice - one in each ear.

I was always pleasantly surprised when the guys went out in late summer and sorted the steer pairs from the heifer pairs. It took a couple of days to sort 750 pairs. They drove the herd into a fence corner. Cows get nervous and pair up. Let the steer pairs get away and the heifer pairs are left. I think they missed one pair a couple of time.

CP

And besides that, it's fun to do it that way!!!! :D
Sometimes it takes them awhile to mother up tho.
 

Hereford76

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you brought up something i've given thought over the last few years. probably wouldn't apply in your situation. but heres the back story. i think it was spring of 09 I decided i was going to leave the racks on my favorite heifer calves out of the purebred cows for fun. last spring i left the racks on all my replacements and will horn brand their id this fall at preg check. i tattoo all the calves born in the registered herd so i can just use that in the fall - altho i know them well enough. another part of the back story is that i am sick and tired of people saying we don't need horned cattle anymore and if someone wants to look at cattle here they're just going to have to put up with seeing it. that and i've always thought there was nothing as beautiful as a crowned female.
 

WyomingRancher

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Faster horses said:
However, it makes it faster and easier when others help pair out, etc because they don't know the cows.
I think once you start tagging, its easier to look at the tag numbers
instead of the cattle as individuals (which to me, isn't a good thing),
but whatever works!

I respectfully disagree FH, it seems with an ear tag help tends to read the ear tag and not the livestock :wink: . I pair out of the corrals when we go on the forest, and the pairs really flow on by IF they don't have somebody leaning in, interrupting, trying to read a tag. However, I TOTALLY agree with you on being biased based on tag number. Every year I think I have my favorite yearlings picked out until I give them their adult tags :D . I believe ear tags can detract from really knowing the cattle to be honest.
 

Big Muddy rancher

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We run mostly commercial cows. Most of them have a tag but I don't tag the calves at birth. I run some purebred cows that I tag the calves to keep track of them. I also have a package of cows I move to a different place for the summer so I tag the first 50 hfrs that calve in the spring.
We pick our replacements on their own merits and not on which cow it was from. Some we know but I guess sometimes we might pick a poor one but we cull them later if needed.
In Canada we have to install a RFID tag before they leave the home ranch so I don't put them in until they leave for summer grazing or sale.
We do tag the bred hfrs after they have been preg checked in the fall.
 
A

Anonymous

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The feller I'm day-workin' for now does'nt want anything tagged; he bases his decision solely on the fact that his dad made him tag EVERYTHING when he was a kid.

If there's ONE thing I cannot stand, it's having to bring up the subject of a starving or sick-calf to the boss, and NOT being able to give him a clear enuf picture as to who the hell the mother-cow is...

...it almost makes me think I'M not doing a good enuf job, and stealing his money; money that COULD'VE been better spent on supplying the ranch with a collection of tags, buttons and a tagger, used to help a hired-man (like me) with the 'ammunition' needed to give HIM (the owner) a clearer 'picture' of what's going on with his livestock.
 

LazyWP

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I have a neighbor that runs right at a 1000 head of cows. Other then his first calf heifers, he doesn't tag anything. I have helped him take pairs to grass, and we can normally sort pairs in an afternoon. Yes there are times when having everything tag is nice, but a person sure learns to pay attention to the cattle if they aren't all tagged.
 

Soapweed

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I, for one, would hate to be without eartags. They have been helpful to us on many occasions this spring in solving mix-ups or other mysterys. We had one cow show up with a tight bag. We never did find her calf, but knew we didn't find her calf instead of just thinking so. We were able to graft another calf onto her successfully, even though her own calf had been at least a month old. When we sort steer calves and their mothers to go to more distant summer pasture, and then be ready to sell in October, the tags are invaluable. The top number on our tags designates order of birth, and the bottom number matches the cow's tag. By looking at the top number, we can tell if a calf is big enough for its age. The color of the calf's tag designates the age of its mother. If a critter gets onto a neighbor's pasture, it is much easier detecting that it is ours by the tag along with the brand. Life is just much easier by having our cattle tagged, and I consider tags an investment, not an expenditure.
 

Justin

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LazyWP said:
I have a neighbor that runs right at a 1000 head of cows. Other then his first calf heifers, he doesn't tag anything. I have helped him take pairs to grass, and we can normally sort pairs in an afternoon. Yes there are times when having everything tag is nice, but a person sure learns to pay attention to the cattle if they aren't all tagged.

i don't know....i tag everything and i still pay pretty close attention.
 

Justin

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Soapweed said:
I, for one, would hate to be without eartags. They have been helpful to us on many occasions this spring in solving mix-ups or other mysterys. Life is just much easier by having our cattle tagged, and I consider tags an investment, not an expenditure.

:agree:
 

3words

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Justin said:
Soapweed said:
I, for one, would hate to be without eartags. They have been helpful to us on many occasions this spring in solving mix-ups or other mysterys. Life is just much easier by having our cattle tagged, and I consider tags an investment, not an expenditure.

:agree:

Me to :agree:
 

Silver

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3words said:
Justin said:
Soapweed said:
I, for one, would hate to be without eartags. They have been helpful to us on many occasions this spring in solving mix-ups or other mysterys. Life is just much easier by having our cattle tagged, and I consider tags an investment, not an expenditure.

:agree:

Me to :agree:

:agree: Me three
 

North Ridge Ranching

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I am actually surprised at how many people have said they don't or are considering not to tag. I have some neighbors that run some big herds and they have tags in almost all their cows. Some don't have a real system of anykind but pretty much everybody around here tags.

I agree that there is a cost to tagging but we have found ways to minimize that and still get the benefits of them. We have went to Z-tag feelot tags for the calves this year @ $0.59/tag instead of Allflex Maxi tags for $1.10/tag. We don't have a concern about losing a cheaper tag because we retag the replacement females in the fall when we sort out the keepers. The calves tags have the order they were born on top with the year letter, the sire on the side, and the biggest number is the dam for sorting purposes. Our replacements recieve a tag with all the same info, just the calfs number and year letter become the biggest part of the tag. I can use this info in picking replacements based on age, breeding, dam, and sire. I can say that a tag has never influenced my judgement on a heifers phenotypical traits.

Like I said, there is cost involved, but I agree with Soapweed about a tag being an investment, not only in the animal, but in the herd in general.
 

lefty

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If you ever had a house full of calves from a blizzard you would buy eartags . Herd improvement would be very hard without tags .
1 mixup at a salebarn would buy many tags . me #5
 

katrina

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Me #6.......
For our situation.... But......... When I was home we didn't.... And even now when I need to tell the guys about a cow I rarely give them the tag number whitch drives them nuts because I tell them about the cow... Like big ole black cow with small teats...
 

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