Ask the Vet

Tagging Calves

The right time to tag new calves can be different in every operation. (Progressive Farmer photo by Victoria G. Myers)


I read an article that said we should not tag calves at birth. They made some really good points, especially about personal safety, allowing the cow and calf to bond and saving time. What do you recommend?


We are in the registered Hereford business. We tag, collect birthweights and udder score the dam as soon as we find a calf. This is common in most registered herds. Our cows are incredibly gentle, and proper identification is critical. That said, I know this can be more difficult, and at times less important, in some commercial operations. At the end of the day, it's important to remember each operation is different, and you have to do what's best for you.

There are certainly advantages to tagging calves at birth. Many producers also choose to castrate bull calves at birth. Tagging helps you keep a record of which calves you've treated, and if a calf happens to get separated from its dam, they make it easier to get them back together. Tags are also helpful if you need to identify and match up twins. Lastly, I see tags as a good way to keep track of that calf that just doesn't look right and needs watching. If you need to treat or follow up on that calf, being able to record its identifier and note treatments, symptoms and responses can go a long way in making sure you don't miss something.