DairyNZ animal husbandry and welfare specialist Andrea Henry says there was an increased number of ear tag infections last season. “Preventing ear tag infections can be done by following these simple yet effective steps,” says Andrea.
- Temporary neck bands can be used in the paddock for newborns so tagging can take place once the calf is back at the calf shed in a clean environment.
- Check the tagger is working correctly and the pin is straight and lines up with the upper jaw of the tool. Keep personal safety in mind when using tools and handling stock.
- When the tag is loaded onto the applicator, check the male and female parts of the tag align correctly and make sure calves are securely restrained.
- To decrease the risk of infection at the piercing site, remove any debris from the ear and put the whole tag and the end of the tagger into a container with antiseptic or disinfectant immediately before tagging.
- Wipe the calf’s ear with an alcohol swab or spray with antiseptic or disinfectant before the ear tag is applied.
- The ideal location for a tag is in the middle third of the ear, between the two thickened lines of cartilage (to ensure the supporting structure of the ear is not damaged) and a third to half way along the ear out from the head.
- Align the tagger. The male tag (with the pin) should enter from the back (outside) of the ear and the female tag facing the front (inside) of the ear.
- Squeeze the tagger quickly but firmly; you should feel a strong click as the tag snaps into place.
- Remove the tagger and ensure the halves are interlocked and that the tag is placed securely and comfortably.
- Watch the calf over the next week for signs of infection or tissue death caused by the ear tag.
What should I do if the ear gets infected?
- Redness or discharge from the ear indicates an infection. Remove the tag, clean with antiseptic and a topical antibiotic and apply wound powder. Reapply the tag through the same hole once the wound has heeled. If the infection does not heel, seek advice from your veterinarian.
- NOTE: Tags placed too close to the head will fit too tightly due to the thicker cartilage, and may cause tissue to die or slouch. Tags placed too far towards the tip or bottom of the ear are at risk of being torn out.
- NAIT RFID tags should be placed in the right ear with the female part of the tag facing forward.
- Calves less than 30 days old going directly to a meat processor that have a ‘direct to slaughter tag’ issued by the meat processor, do not need a NAIT tag.
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy June 2015