Once you have the calf in the working chute, check your records and establish the tattoo that will identify the calf. Place the corresponding digits in your pliers. Checking the tattoo on something like a piece of cardboard or an old feed sack is recommended. Otherwise, you run the risk of incorrectly tattooing the calf.
Check to make sure that all of your digits make an even perforation. One common mistake breeders make is not throwing away dull, broken or hair-matted characters. Such digits do not allow for deep penetration into the ear tissue.
Cleaning the ear and ridding it of all wax and dirt is the next step. To really do a good job, you need to clean out that ear with alcohol. You can’t get a tattoo to take with all the wax and dirt that is normally in the ear.
The ear should be dry before moving on to the next step — applying ink. AHA recommends tattooing the animal in the upper two-thirds of the lobe, reserving the lower third of the right ear lobe for the Bangs tattoo. Tattoos in either ear can’t exceed eight characters in length.
The Association also strongly advises that breeders place the tattoo in both ears to enhance the chances that a complete tattoo identity can be established.
Make sure that the tattoo is stamped in the center of the ear, close to the head, not the tip or the end of the ear.
Tattoos should be placed where the skin is lightest in color and free from hair. Be sure to avoid ribs or cords in the ear, as placing the tattoo in one of these ribs means a poor tattoo as well as an excessive flow of blood.
Before tattooing the animal, rub the ink in with a toothbrush or your thumb. By doing this, the ink will more likely be carried into the new tattoo.
When ready to proceed, place the ear between the jaws of the pliers. It’s important when clamping the pliers to use the right amount of pressure.
Close the jaws quickly and firmly and release quickly to avoid tearing the ear. Use enough pressure that it pierces the skin, but don’t go so deeply that it bleeds profusely.
The only way to stop an ear from bleeding after the use of too much pressure is to reapply ink. Put on more ink and use that toothbrush to get the ink down in those perforations. The ink helps the blood to coagulate.
Make sure that the ink is worked thoroughly into the tattoo to ensure a legible and permanent tattoo mark. When the tattooing process is finished, clean the characters to remove all hair, dirt and blood. This is also the time when you should throw away and get replacements for the ones that are dull.