A Little Bit Western


Skin Deep

Apr 28, 2015

At Lonesome Dove Ranch, we are all about tattoos. We truly value the role that tattoos play in self-identification and we especially like their permanence. Getting ink isn’t just a part of the culture for our ranch residents, it is actually a requirement for a specific demographic of our population. That’s right, if you are a registered purebred bovine, you must have a tattoo.

To reiterate, I am NOT talking about people. None of the humans that are kicking around our place currently have a tattoo, or nothing stronger than the temporary Ninja Turtle variety. I’m pretty sure it’s against the law to force a person to acquire a tattoo just so they could fit in at our camp, so the only critters around here that are required to sport a tattoo are the furry four-legged kind.

We tattoo our purebred cattle in their right ear with a designated and unique number, along with our registered herd prefix. Ear tattoos are a requirement of managing purebred cattle and this identification helps buyers and sellers do what they say and say what they do. Prior to entering specific shows or sales, cattle tattoos need to be verified, and it is a handy and permanent way of double checking the identity of an animal if they lose other forms of identification, like a drop tag.

Our expert tattoo artist has experience applying high quality ear tattoos in a variety of windy and dusty field conditions on thousands of animals. I don’t think I would request just any tattoo from our artist, no butterflies or maple leaves or anything like that, but his handiwork leaves clear and legible letters and numbers, which is a must in our business.

Possibly the only drawback of our cattle tattoo parlour process is the ink itself. Livestock tattoo ink is a thick, goopy paste, available in diverse colours and our colour of choice is bright green. While the whole tattoo process takes place in under fifteen seconds, things can get surprisingly messy in that brief time frame. Of course the calf’s ear and head usually get a little green, which later results in any excess paste rubbing off on the corresponding cow’s udder and muzzle. The tip table we use in order to safely hold the calf in place often gets a little ink on it as well. You also need to have a spot where you can set the tube of ink and the ink-covered tattoo instruments down. A nearby tail gate or table usually does the trick, but that means anyone who sets anything down within a two metre radius of said area has the potential to turn green.  Add some busy little helping hands into the mix as well as a few adult pranksters and no one is immune to sporting some creative, personalized ink of their own.

Over the years, I’ve washed ink off of coffee cups and casserole dishes, bathroom sinks and barn doors, and it fades away with time. Depending on how close you are to the tattoo process, it might be a good idea to wear clothes that are already green because you’re going to end up that colour anyway. If all else fails and you feel really committed, you can accessorize your new shade with matching clothes or even nail polish for a week or two.

It’s not always easy being a rancher and it may not always be easy being a calf, but in both circumstances, it ain’t easy being green.

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