Who’s your mama? Who’s your daddy? These are a questions farmers need to be able to answer for all their animals, especially during breeding season (farmers do not want to mistakenly breed a daddy to his daughter).

In order to identify each animal on the farm, farmers can use tattoos (a messy business for the novice), ear notching (not for the faint of heart) or even electronic IDs (expensive). But the animal tracking system you are most likely to see if you find yourself at the county fair this summer is ear tags, used most often for sheep and cows.

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The ear tagger has a pin, with the identification tag attached, which pierces the animal’s ear. These taggers operate much like the device used to pierce human ears.

The hardest part of tagging is catching, then restraining, the animal. Once a farmer has that under control, it takes only a couple of seconds to grab the animal’s ear and pierce the tag into place. Ear tag numbers are important for the farm’s breeding program and for general record-keeping.

— WENDY ALMEIDA