Tattoos, piercings, printing and bands. Sounds like the average life of a teenager, right? Not in this instance. We're talking about identification for 4-H animals.
Most 4-H animal projects require the animal to have some type of identification marker. Depending on the species, that marker could be a nose print, ear tag or notching, brand, wing/leg band, ear tattoo, paint marking, retinal scan, microchipping or DNA sample.
There are numerous reasons to identify 4-H animals. First, it provides solid evidence of ownership if the animal is ever lost or stolen. It is also extremely important for keeping health records and harvesting data. Part of the 4-H record keeping includes keeping track of the animal's health statistics for as long as the animal is owned by the 4-Her. Without the identification marker, there could be much confusion about dietary changes, medical treatments, etc.
Another important reason to have an identification system is to be able to trace an animal's origins. The Garfield County Fairboard requires anyone selling an animal at the junior livestock sale to provide a country of origin label form, showing where the animal was born and/or raised. Many processing plants now require this in order to harvest the animal.
Market beef in Garfield County must have their brand inspection papers on hand at spring weigh-in and be ear tagged. Members develop a feeding and management plan to determine the rate of gain of their animal throughout the length of the project. To help them get started, we have an initial spring weigh-in where all the animals in the project are weighed on the same annually-certified scale for consistency purposes. This weight allows the member to plan their feeding plan to reach a desired final weight.
If the beef is headed for state fair competition, it must also be nose printed or retinal scanned. Some outside shows, such as Ak-Sar-Ben, now require DNA samples as identification.
Swine, goats and sheep all receive an ear tag as identification. Hogs are also required to have ear notching. Sheep going to the state fair are also nose printed.
Turkeys and market poultry all receive metal ID wing bands. In contrast to leg bands, wing bands do not run the risk of restrictive pinching due to growth of the leg. Rabbits receive an ear tattoo which lasts for the duration of their lives.
Horses are identified by their markings, freeze brands and microchipping. We require dog project members to provide identification on their animals. However, the customary way is through microchipping, usually by their veterinarians.
If your child is interested in joining 4-H or you would like further information, contact the Garfield County Extension Office at 625-3969 or visit our website at www.extension.colostate.edu/garfieldcounty. 4-H is a cooperative effort between CSU Extension and Garfield County.