How & why do we ear notch the piglets ears?

How? There is a small hand tool specifically made for notching ears. It is easy to use & is not traumatic to the piglet. The only thing the piglet is upset about is the fact that he/she has been picked up!

When ear notching we use the universal numbering system. You can find a helpful chart on the LBHA website.

The right ear is the litter number. We do it by breed, not farrowing. What do I mean by this? Well Penny’s litter was #22 for the Large Blacks. In the GOS the last litter born was #7. Olivia’s piglets, crossbreeds, were #13. This helps keeps the numbers more reasonable.

The left ear is the number of the piglet so in Penny’s latest litter of 9 born live, the piglets are numbered 1 thru 9. Birth order is not necessary as long as each piglet is recorded. We have a computer program here where all the info is stored & I print a copy of that for my “Pig” clipboard that sits on my desk so that when folks call, I have all the info right at my fingertips. Keeping good records is not only important for the integrity of our business but also makes good business sense. Once a pig is sold that is also documented along with the buyer’s name etc.

Most times the piglets are notched within 24 hours of their birth? It is very rare that two pigs will farrow in the same area BUT just in case we need to know exactly whose piglets belong to who. PLUS at this age the piglets are easy to catch & mama is still recovering from labor. This is also the time we make notes of size, teats etc so it gives us a base point for future observations.

Richard & I do not like to use ear tags for a couple reasons:

  • Ear Tags can & do fall out. Because these breeds of pig have such large floppy ears once you put a tag in them they are more likely to get caught in something (fence/tree branch etc), the pig will panic & rip its ear. Then you are left with maybe two or more pigs without identification & unless you know them very well mistakes can be made.
  • Ear Tags have to be placed very carefully so as to not hit the pigs eyes, nor to go through some of the big veins in the ears.

What about traveling across state lines? Because these are registered pigs, ear notching is acceptable as identification according to USDA laws. There are a couple states that do require extra identification, Virginia is one, but then those thin metal tags are put in by the vet when they go for their vet checks. Should those fall out, not seen that happen, then our pigs will still have their ear notches as identification.

We have learned that it is important not to make the ear notches too big! Made that mistake before & especially when a pig is a #12 (9 & 3) if the notches are too big as they mature they tend to rip off the tip of their ears! Whoops! SO now we only make a small “V”, half size of what the actual tool is capable of.

Hope this helps some of you,



3 Responses to “How & why do we ear notch the piglets ears?”

  1. Lee McKenney says:

    Thanks for answering the question about how the ears are tagged, very interesting. For a non-potential customer (ever) of buying a pig, I sure do ask a lot of questions, don’t I. LOL!

  2. Nicholas Jansen says:

    When is the best time to notch a pigs ears?

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