Ear Tags & Microchips

A registered Kunekune pig requires a form of identification, in addition to being DNA tested. While some may find both DNA testing and having to identify a pig to be just one more thing that they don’t want to do, it’s actually very simple to do both. AKPR Registered pigs should be tagged in their RIGHT ear. If for some reason you’ve tagged the left ear, indicate this with the ear tag number when you do the registration with a capital “L” followed by the number of the tag.

 
These are the two forms of identification we use for pigs. Both are USDA 840, which means that our premise ID is linked to the numbers on these tags in the federal database. You need to obtain a premise ID to purchase these. To find how to get one in your state, just Google Premise ID + the name of your state.

Note: Some breeders use ear tattoos, and some might consider ear notching. I’m only discussing the methods that we use and have experience with.

 
USDA 840 tags are required for piglets to be shipped or transported across state lines. Most states will require an ear tag, not a microchip, but sometimes the state vet will allow a chip. You don’t have to use USDA 840 tags to register a pig (any type of ear tag, microchip or even an ear tattoo will suffice), but we choose to use the USDA tags on our farm, so that we have the identification needed to cross state lines from the start, and not having to add it later.
We use Microchip ID systems 840 USDA mini tags for livestock. We don’t cut corners or try to buy the cheapest chips. Go with a good quality chip. While pet animals are commonly microchipped so that they can be identified if lost, microchips in livestock are used firstly for identification requirements. It’s generally accepted that microchips shouldn’t be used in animals for consumption, so in meat herds it’s best to tag animals with 840 ear button tags. MIcrochips are injected subcutaneously below the skin, behind the ear.
 
Which brings me to… USDA 840 button tags- They have a number printed on them. These are small, round ear tags that are again, linked to your state level premise ID number (this is something you need to apply for within your state). They are very easy to apply with the allflex tagger gun, and I prefer to do it when pigs are several months old so that their ear cartilage is strong enough to support the weight of the tag. I’ve never had a pig have difficulty with a tag, nor have I ever had a pig get an infection from being tagged. USDA 840 RFID chips contain a microchip and are quite heavy. These aren’t suitable for piglets due to their weight.
 
 
Ear tagging also helps farmers track animals in a larger herd and maintain records.

It’s a myth that Ear tagging (or Ear notching) is cruel. Animal rights activists will say that It’s painful for the animal, causes them persistent pain, and is a way of marking babies for slaughter.

Truth: Ear tagging is important in a larger herd. Ear tags may hurt when applied, but recovery is very fast and infection is extremely rare, as they area is cleaned first, and some ear tags have an anti-microbial embedded in them. Some farmers use ear notches. Ear notches are tiny and done when piglets are young, they heal very quickly without incident. Both methods identify an animal with a number, within a herd. This number is tied to the animal’s health records, which a farmer keeps. We maintain spreadsheets. Important health info such as deworming, vaccinations, and notes about growth and body condition are kept. Weights and dosages of medicines are logged, when administered.

A farmer being able to identify and document each animal in the herd is responsible animal husbandry, not cruelty.

Certain types of ear tags (such as 840 USDA or 840 USDA RFID) function as acceptable identification to transport pigs across state lines and track them tied to a farm’s premise ID #.

I call ear tagging “giving everyone their earring”