How to Tattoo a Dairy Goat & ADGA Tattoo Policy

All dairy goats must be tattooed before they can be accepted for registry or recordation in the herd books of the American Dairy Goat Association.

Goat’s Right Ear, Right Tail, or Center Tail

It is strongly recommended that all breeds be tattooed in the ears, except the LaMancha which should be tattooed in the tail web. A maximum of four letters and/or numerals are allowed for your assigned tattoo. However, no tattoos will be assigned utilizing one letter followed by a number(s), e.g., K2, D347.

Members are required to use the tattoo sequence assigned to their membership identification number. They may not use a tattoo assigned to someone else.

If a new membership application is not accompanied by a tattoo application, ADGA will register a tattoo of their choice to the member. The assigned tattoo, if unacceptable, can be changed within 30 days of certification. There is no charge for this service. Your assigned tattoo should be used in the RIGHT ear, right tail, or center tail.

You must use your assigned herd-identifying tattoo letters on any animal born in your herd. It is strongly recommended that animals be tattooed BEFORE they are sold or purchased.

Goat’s Left Ear, Left Tail, or Center Tail

One method of individual identification recommended by ADGA for use in the LEFT ear, left tail, or center tail, is to use a letter designating the year of birth – “L”-2019, “M”-2020, “N”-2021, etc. (letters G, I, O, Q, and U are not used) – together with a serial number to designate the order of birth. For example, the first, second, and third kids born into the herd during 2020 should have as their tattoos “M1”, “M2”, and “M3”.  (See table below for more Birth Year Letters)

The tattoo will be the permanent identification and will apply to all ADGA programs requiring identification of animals by their tattoo including, but not limited to, registration, linear appraisal, production testing and show.

More information on tattooing can be found in Article VII of the Bylaws and the appendix of the American Dairy Goat Association Guidebook. If in doubt, contact the ADGA office BEFORE tattooing.


Success in securing a lasting tattoo mark depends entirely upon the operator. A few simple rules must be observed:

  • Halter or muzzle the animal, if necessary.
  • Cleanse the area to be tattooed with alcohol to remove dirt, grease, and wax.
  • Insert the correct symbols in the pliers and press the thin rubber sponge pad down very firmly over the needles. This pad helps to release the needles from the skin.
  • Check the correctness of the symbols by making a mark on a piece of paper.
  • Smear ink on the skin, choosing an area free from freckles and warts, if possible. Place the symbols parallel to and between the veins or cartilage of the ear or the veins of the tail web. The accidental piercing of a vein may spoil the tattoo. Green ink/paste is much better for permanent tattoo identification, particularly where the tissue receiving the tattoo is black or very dark.
  • Make the imprint with a quick, firm movement and immediately apply more ink/paste and rub vigorously and continuously for at least 15 seconds to insure penetration (an old toothbrush is excellent for working ink/paste into the tattoo area). This is important.
  • Remove the rubber pad and rinse it and the needles in water; then dry. The sponge rubber pad should be replaced when it begins to lose its elasticity.
  • Do not disturb the area until the healing process is complete, which may be from five to twenty-one days.
  • Keep a list of tattoo numbers with names of animals and enter it in your private breeding record. The safest way to double check a tattoo is to make an impression on the animal’s application for registry, as well as on some other form that will be kept as a permanent record.
  • To read the tattoo in a dark-eared animal, hold a lighted flashlight against the outside of the ear.

Table of Birth Year Letters


(We’ve been paying attention and noticed that some prefer to spell “tattoo” as “tatoo” or “tatto.” If you’re one of those people we’ve included those spellings here so you can find what you’re looking for. ?)