That Embarrassing Moment at the Goat Show…

Invariably we’re at a show and we get to see first hand, or hear about second hand, how someone loses a leg due to poor tattoos.

What’s that you say?  It will NEVER EVER happen to you?

I used to say that.  Vehemently in fact.

No way I’ll ever lose a leg over a bad tattoo!  That’s nuts!  I work too hard for that!

Fast forward a couple years from that quote.  Observe me take a doe I purchased as a mature, and recently re-tattooed by the seller, animal into the ring.  Now you see my girl take Grand, the last leg needed for her permanent GCH designation on her papers.  Watch the utter horror on my face as the judge tells me that there is no way she could possibly call that a legible tattoo.  I’ll have you know that Smores never got GCH at another show that was official and to this day I have that moment burned into my memory like it was yesterday.

The point I’m making here is twofold.  First and foremost; check your tattoos every year, preferably twice a year if you have Lamanchas, as when they DO fade they tend to do it rapidly.   Secondly, be sure you follow good tattoo procedures when you do tattoo an animal.  My preferred tattoo method was gleaned from several sources over the years and combined into a method that seems to work for everyone who’s tried it so far.  I’ve heard more than one compliment on the readability of my now 8 year old Lamanchas’ tail and she’s NEVER been re-tattooed.

Without further ado, shall we talk about how I tattoo?

  1. Use PASTE, not INK. I prefer the name brand green stuff.
  2. Clean the area with alcohol and let it dry COMPLETELY
  3. Use clean and sharp digits and make sure they are properly in the pliers while you wait for the alcohol to dry – Check the tattoo on a sheet of paper first to make sure it’s crisp ( I write the kid’s tattoo on the paper and then compare also to make sure I didn’t goof up!)
  4. My own personal secret weapon? MINERAL OIL!! Spread a thin layer of mineral oil on the area to be tattooed, THEN smear on a nice layer of paste!!
  5. Apply the tattoo firmly, then immediately rub paste in to the holes with your thumb for 20-30 seconds once you take the pliers away.
  6. Any bleeding? Hold your thumb over the offending hole and apply pressure for a minute or more if the goat will stand still. Blood ruins the appearance of the hole if left to run.
  7. DO NOT attempt to neaten up or clean the area. Leave all that lovely green paste where it is. Embrace the concept that your kid pen and everything your kids touch is going to look like naughty leprechauns just went berserk.

Hints and Tips:

  • Oxyclean does a marvelous job of getting green paste off tattoo pliers and digits.  When it’s fresh ink the alcohol does a good job as well.
  • Use rubber gloves if you work somewhere that may frown on green hands, nails, fingers, elbows… well; green everything.
  • Don’t be cheap.  I know we like to be frugal when we can and this is NOT the time to do it.  The tattoo, when done right, is with the goat for their entire life so waste a couple paper towels to clean those ears and tails, buy new digits if the old ones get dull, bent, or broken.  You won’t regret it.
  • Get a second set of tattoo pliers; not the whole alphabet/number digits, just the pliers.  When you do that you can put your herd identifying digits in one set of pliers and then just change the unique numbers for each goat in the other set.  That saves a lot of time and headache.  Trust me.
  • I use the .300 Pet tattoo since I have Lamanchas and I wait until they’re at least 6 months old to tattoo if I can so that there is more “real estate” to work with back there.  That’s the same size tattoo digits I used on my Toggs, Obies, Saanens, Alpines, and Nubians throughout the years.
  • On does who don’t seem to have a legible tattoo; have you used a strong light like a Mag-light behind the ear to confirm it’s gone?  Sometimes you just need to use a POWERFUL flashlight.  Be sure not to burn the ear if it gets hot fast! You may find that it’s beneficial for you, the judge, and your goats’ sanity if you bring your own flashlight to shows that works well for highlighting the tattoo.

I hope this helps you as much as it’s helped others.  If you have more hints or tips please feel free to share as I’m as happy as the next person to save time, money, or even better; BOTH!!

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