Why Do Cows Have Tags On Their Ears?


As one of the most common sources of nutrition, cows are the iconic symbols of our pastoral landscapes. We often see them sporting small and colorful tags on their ears. Why do cows have tags on their ears? Some might view them as a bovine fashion statement. However, the intended purpose of cow ear tags is to help dairy farmers better manage their livestock.
In this article, we will explore every detail regarding cow ear tags. Our main focus will highlight the significance of these “accessories” to farmers and cattle, how cow ear tagging impacts the animal, and the available types of tags used today.

Why do Cows Have Tags on their Ears?

It was probably a curious moment the first time you saw a cow donning an “earring.” After your discovery, your next question likely was, why do cows have tags on their ears? The answer to this question is simple. Like pet owners purchase collars and identification tags for their animal companions, farmers use cow ear tags to identify their cattle quickly. These means of identification typically feature a combination of barcodes, letters, and numbers that assist a farmer in maintaining accurate records about each cow.

Additional Benefits of Ear Tags

oormerken voor koeien

Besides ID purposes, cow ear tags are also helpful in tracking the maturity of an individual from birth to slaughter and in keeping precise information about each animal. Ear tags play a fundamental role in overall livestock management and help to distinguish between cattle breeds and age groups within a herd. This further aids in the employment of specific feeding routines, management of breeding programs, and general health monitoring of the herd.
In rural areas, for instance, where communal grazing is common, cow ear tags are a visible indicator of cattle ownership and a preventive measure against theft. Tagged cows are easy to recognize and prove difficult for thieves to sell in a legal market without arousing suspicion.
Another benefit of cow ear tagging is disease prevention and control. Farmers use ear tags to record the medical history of every cow in the herd, including their vaccination status, unique treatments, and disease conditions. This practice helps them to take prompt measures in the advent of an outbreak and provide the necessary veterinary care to the sick animal.

Do Ear Tags Hurt Cows?

Why do cows have tags on their ears? I believe you already have the answer. Cow ear tagging provides invaluable benefits that simplify overall herd management. However, people are still concerned about how this practice negatively affects the existing animals.
Ear tagging involves piercing the cow’s ear to attach the tag(s) and secure them in place. Tagging a cow’s ears occurs in their early life while they are still calves.
Some might compare the process to piercing a person’s ears to fix an earring. There is an initial feeling of pain or discomfort. It is essential to note that ear tagging does not hurt the animal when handled by a professional. Some farm owners report that their tagged animals feel confused at first. But over time, they adapt to the presence of the ear tags and continue to live as usual.

Factors Responsible

Certain factors are responsible for the impact of ear tags on cows. They include the tags’ material and design, the individual cow’s tolerance level, and routine inspection of the new ID.
High-quality tags with round edges and smooth surfaces are less likely to cause injury and irritation to a newly tagged animal. Therefore, farmers must choose cow ear tags with the safety and comfort of their livestock in mind.
The tolerance and adaptive quality of cows to environmental changes are comparable to many other animals. In most cases, after the initial tagging process, cows show quick signs of adapting to their new accessory and exhibit minimal signs of discomfort.
On the rare occasion that an individual in the herd reveals distress after tagging, cattle farmers inspect the animal for infections and other complications and then take appropriate measures to relieve the animal.

Types of Cow Ear Tags Used

Cow ear tags come in a variety of types and colors. Each of these is designed to meet farmers’ specific needs and preferences. The color, type, and position of an ear tag provide different information that tells us about the unique characteristics of each animal. Selecting custom cow ear tags depends primarily on the durability of the material, its visibility, and the type of information the farmer requires. The following are types of cow ear tags.

1. Metal Tags

metal tags

Metal tags have durable and long-lasting attributes. These tags are usually made using aluminum or steel. They can withstand harsh weather and heavy handling. Metal tags offer a permanent and legible solution when engraved with identification records. However, their most obvious downside is that metal tags tend to be heavier than plastic tags.

2. Button Tags

This type of ear tag consists of a female piece(which is the tag itself) and a male piece, which holds the tag in place. These two pieces consist of small discs that merge to give a button shape. Button tags are inserted into a cow’s ear using a special applicator, providing a discreet yet secure identification solution.

3. Conventional Plastic Tags

conventional plastic tags

Plastic tags are among the most common types of custom cow ear tags. They are made from materials like polyethylene and polyurethane and exist in various colors and shapes.
These plastic tags are customizable, light, and cost-effective. This allows farmers to include essential information in them and potentially save costs. However, plastic tags are liable to damage and require consistent replacement over time.

4. Flag-shaped Tags

Due to their large surface area, these tags allow farmers to record more information on them. Their large surface allows farmers to identify their animals from a distance visually.

5. Electronic or RFID Ear Tags

rfid-labels voor vee

With the advancement of technology, electronic ear tags with radio-frequency identification (RFID) are becoming increasingly popular. These tags allow for fast and precise scanning that aids in automated data collection. They can also store vast information, including health records and breeding details. This makes them essential for effective herd management.


Why do cows have ear tags? Overall, they’re very important. They help identify cows for our records. Ear tags are a practical and efficient tool for farmers to manage livestock. If you want to know more about cow ear tags, please contact us. JIA TECH is a professional animal ear tags manufacturer in China. We provide various types of animal ear tags for you to choose from.

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