C:N Ratios of Common Organic Materials

C:N Ratios of Common Organic MaterialsThe carbon-to-nitrogen (C:N) ratio is often considered to be of utmost importance in composting, particularly hot composting. If the C:N ratio is too high, the compost will break down extremely slowly. If the ratio is too low, the pile can produce a displeasing smell as excess nitrogen escapes into the atmosphere in the form of ammonia.

While many gardeners probably obsess over C:N more than is strictly necessary (and those who use cold composting methods typically do not need to worry about it at all), attention to the C:N ratio of your compost pile can keep it working smoothly and quickly. And it may be useful for troubleshooting!

Experts disagree on the optimal C:N ratio, but most scientific literature typically recommends something between 25:1 and 30:1. Higher ratios are fine if a slow composting process is acceptable.

 

The C:N Ratio List

Here’s a list of the average C:N ratios of common compost ingredients, pulled from a variety of sources:

  • Swine manure: 6:1.
  • Aged chicken manure: 7:1.
  • Hairy vetch: 11:1.
  • Fresh-cut alfalfa: 12:1.
  • Table/kitchen scraps: 15:1.
  • Used poultry bedding: 15:1.
  • Fresh cattle manure: 15:1.
  • Sheep manure: 15:1.
  • Legume hay: 17:1.
  • Fresh grass clippings: 20:1.
  • Coffee grounds: 20:1.
  • Clover: 23:1.
  • Horse manure: 25:1.
  • Vegetable scraps: 25:1.
  • Mature alfalfa hay: 25:1.
  • Wood ashes: 25:1.
  • Rye cover crop in a vegetative state: 26:1.
  • Freshly pulled weeds: 30:1.
  • Garden waste: 30:1.
  • Used horse bedding: 45:1.
  • Peat moss: 60:1.
  • Leaves: 60:1.
  • Fresh corn stalks: 60:1.
  • Oat straw: 70:1.
  • Wheat straw: 80:1.
  • Pine needles: 80:1.
  • Rye straw: 82:1.
  • Shredded newspaper: 175:1.
  • Hardwood bark: 223:1.
  • Sawdust: 325:1.
  • Shredded cardboard: 350:1.
  • Wood chips: 400:1.
  • Softwood bark: 496:1.

 

Using C:N Ratios

Gardeners often simplify matters by thinking in terms of color—materials with a C:N ratio higher than 30:1 are browns, and materials with a ratio lower than 30:1 are greens. (Note that high-nitrogen materials can actually be brown in color and vice versa.) However, a compost pile that has a ratio of 30 parts brown material to 1 part green material actually has a disproportionately high amount of bulky carbon. If you are using browns:greens instead of C:N, you will want to use the ratio 1:1 or even 1:2, both of which take bulk into consideration.

Do the math to see why 1:2 works. Let’s say we’ve chosen to use one part leaves for our brown and two parts fresh grass clippings for greens:

  1. Add the ratios of each part (60:1 + 20:1 + 20:1 = 100:3).
  2. Reduce the fraction to find the C:N ratio of the mixture (100:3 = 33:1).

This C:N ratio is slightly on the high side, but with patience should come out just fine. The mathematics will work on any other combinations of ingredients we choose to evaluate.

Also of interest is how the C:N ratio applies to plant residues left on the surface of the ground to protect the soil. The same 25:1–30:1 rule applies. If the ratio is lower, soil microbes will eat up all of the available carbon too quickly and leave the soil bare. If the ratio is higher, the microbes take a long time to eat up the high-carbon materials, leaving a great deal of chunky debris in the soil. Furthermore, the microbes will need to absorb more nitrogen to balance their diet, and this will have to come from the soil—leaving less nitrogen available for growing plants.

The practical implications? Often the best cover crop is a blend of high-carbon grains and high-nitrogen legumes. This mix, highly favored among organic gardeners, works because it keeps the C:N ratio close to optimal.

The C:N ratio will also affect the mulch you use. Wood mulches are attractive in ornamental gardens, but they pull a great deal of nitrogen out of the soil to balance out their high carbon levels—not good for growing sweet corn. For a vegetable garden, something a little closer to the optimal C:N ratio will foster healthier plants.

What is Permaculture?

What is Permaculture?As you enter the field of sustainable agriculture, one term you will come into frequent contact with is permaculture. Permaculture is a very complex, systems-oriented topic and is thus difficult to summarize without leaving out any pertinent information. This discussion is intended to be merely an introduction.

In short, permaculture seeks to imitate natural systems and take a holistic approach to sustainable living and growing food. This emphasis on natural design results in a system that can be modified and applied anywhere around the globe (thus its appeal to urban gardeners). No design element is emphasized more than another because the key lies in the interaction of elements. In other words, the whole is larger than the sum of the parts.

The word permaculture was originally a portmanteau word combining permanent and agriculture. It is now considered a combination of permanent and culture, reflecting an expansion of the system into all aspects of society.

Note that, while permaculture is usually organic in nature, it is much more than simply growing things without chemicals. What is typically regarded as “organic farming” is often a prime example of a focus on one part of the system to the exclusion of all others.

A Little Background

The roots of permaculture go back as far as interest in sustainable farming practices. The term itself, however, originated from the subtitle of a 1929 book by Joseph Russell Smith, Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture. The concept of forestry agriculture sparked interest among those seeking ways of making farming sustainable.

Besides forestry agriculture, other ideas and systems from the early and mid-1900s that may have influenced the various renditions of permaculture include:

In the late 1960s, Australian scientist Bill Mollison and his student David Holmgren began their observations of the rise of industrial agriculture and its consequences. A brief examination of the loss of biodiversity, topsoil, and water quality associated with commercial farming convinced them that a more sustainable system needed to be developed. As a wildlife biologist, Mollison was particularly disturbed by the effect farming was having on natural ecosystems. However, he quickly came to the conclusion that he wanted to respond with a positive solution rather than impotent rage. The result was the term permaculture (coined in the mid-1970s by the scientific duo) and the system it represented.

Permaculture has continued to evolve since its creation. One of the earliest changes came in the 1980s, when the focus shifted from farming specifically to society as a whole.

Permaculture is now popular among sustainable farmers across the world. Elements of permaculture design have influenced many more farmers who do not adhere dogmatically to any particular theory (e.g., Joel Salatin).

The Three Core Tenets or Ethics

  1. Earth care. This implies provision for all forms of life. The idea is that a healthier earth will better enable humans to thrive. This first tenet of permaculture trickles down into all aspects of the system. While permaculture recognizes that not everyone is in a position to grow all of their own food, it does require that all choose to make purchases that are compatible with a healthy environment.
  2. People care. This implies that all people should have access to the resources necessary for life. Enjoyable lifestyles free from tedium are also a priority. Permaculture emphasizes that all people have value and should be treated with respect. It also encourages strong community ties, fostered by local trade.
  3. Fair share. This implies that no one should take more than they need from the system and that all should return what they do not need back to the system. Permaculturists tend to view the third tenet as the antithesis of the industrial model.

The 12 Principles of Design

  1. Observe and interact. Food systems truly customized to our unique circumstances cannot be achieved without observing how nature works. This demands that the farmer slow down and take time to think, rather than constantly rush from one to-do to the next.
  2. Catch and store energy. Surplus energy should be harvested and stored for times of need, whatever form it takes. Solar energy can be captured in a cold frame or greenhouse. Water energy running out the downspout can be stored in barrels or cisterns. Nutrient energy in the form of surplus animal manure can be conserved in the form of compost.
  3. Obtain a yield. Work without an adequate return is a waste. Permaculturists fully expect to eat the fruits of their labor. They may even trade or sell the surplus. They also tend to expect a harvest of intangibles, such as satisfaction with their work.
  4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback. No one escapes responsibility for their own actions.
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services. Examples of this principle include saving seeds, growing mostly perennial plants, and building a house out of local natural materials.
  6. Produce no waste. Permaculturists are often advocates of recycling and composting everything from paper to dinner scraps to household wastewater. They are also big fans of labor efficiency—the system is typically designed with a view to letting ecosystems sustain themselves with as little effort as possible.
  7. Design from patterns to details. Stepping back and observing patterns and interactions comes first in permaculture. The details can be filled in as necessary.
  8. Integrate rather than segregate. Permitting interactions between different parts of the system promotes sustainability. Permaculture seeks to build “guilds” of symbiotic plants and animals rather than a patchwork of “vegetables here, chickens there, and corn field over yonder.”
  9. Use small and slow solutions. The bigger the design, the more inputs it will require to keep it running. This principle precludes allowing huge multinational corporations to handle the world’s food supply (even the world’s organic food supply).
  10. Use and value diversity. Diverse food systems are less likely to collapse under pressure than monocultures. Furthermore, diversity within the system maximizes efficiency. Diversity is reflected in the emphasis of permaculture on layers of food production. For example, a tree canopy will be supplemented with an understory layer of smaller shade-loving trees followed by a layer of shrubs such as berry bushes. No permaculture system can ever be labeled “cash crop farm,” “poultry farm,” “pig farm,” etc.
  11. Use edges and value the marginal. Permaculture practitioners believe that the transition zone from one ecosystem to another is often the most productive part of either ecosystem. This principle is utilized by maximizing the area devoted to edges and borders. For example, a pond might be constructed with a meandering shoreline to increase the amount of area devoted to the transition zone between land and water.
  12. Creatively use and respond to change. In fact, despite its emphasis on “permanent,” permaculture allows for relatively little permanence, mimicking nature’s pattern of ecological succession. Livestock is rotated, crops are rotated, etc. Even fruit tree plantings are mixed up, with different species and varieties intermingled.

The Benefits

Permaculture advocates often list the following benefits of their system:

  • Innovation.
  • Better quality of life for the farmer due to increased variety and lowered risk of crop failure.
  • Beautiful natural landscapes.
  • Adaptability to any environment, even an urban backyard.
  • Inexpensive production.
  • Reduced labor requirements.

The Challenges

It has been noted that a permaculture system is only as good as the designer. Because permaculture is inexorably founded on ethics and observation, the whole system breaks down in the hands of the unethical and the unobservant. The permaculturist must be willing to continually learn, grow, and plan.

Permaculture and agroforestry are not inherently synonymous (although one might think so reading some descriptions of permaculture systems). Permaculture is, by design, adaptable to any ecosystem. But the heavy emphasis on creating forests may present a challenge to those seeking knowledge on practicing permaculture in native grassland environments. Building a grass-based permaculture system will require particularly close attention to nature and some dedicated research.

And, of course, conventional agriculturalists argue that permaculture cannot match the yields of modern farming methods. But they are not the only ones. Some biologists also note that the natural forests permaculturists seek to mimic are not capable of feeding the world—in fact, that is why humans developed agriculture.

Again, this post is merely an introduction to a complex topic. Permaculture is an involved subject in and of itself; plus it takes on a variety of forms as it is adapted to varying circumstances. Farmers of all stripes and beliefs use permaculture, and the system tends to reflect their different values. If you are interested in permaculture, take the time to search for a presentation that will fit with your values, as well as your natural ecosystem.

Helpful Resource

You Can FarmYou Can Farm
This book from Joel Salatin is an excellent demonstration of permaculture-influenced agripreneurship. Read our full review.

Eat Your Colors: Red, Orange, and Green

Eat Your ColorsTired of counting calories? Some health experts are now proposing an alternative—counting colors.

The pigments that give fruits and vegetables their varied, luscious hues are associated with nutrients important for peak health. Eating a variety of colors helps ensure that we receive a balanced mix of vitamins and minerals.

Here are some common colors and their associated nutrients.

 

Red

Some red fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes and watermelons, derive their color from lycopene, an important antioxidant. Others, such as grapes and strawberries, receive their rosy hue from anthocyanins.

The red family of nutrients includes:

  • Folate.
  • Lycopene.
  • Quercetin (a natural antioxidant and allergy fighter).
  • Vitamin C.

This nutrient group contains important antioxidants that remove free radicals from the body and reduce the risk of some types of cancer and tumors. Fruits and vegetables in the red family are associated with lowered blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels. They appear to have beneficial effects in arthritis patients.

Ready to eat your reds? Try the red varieties of some of these fruits and vegetables:

  • Apples.
  • Cherries.
  • Cranberries.
  • Grapefruit.
  • Grapes.
  • Radicchio.
  • Radishes.
  • Raspberries.
  • Rhubarb.
  • Onions.
  • Peppers (sweet or hot).
  • Potatoes.
  • Strawberries.
  • Tomatoes (including sauce; cooking tomato sauce lowers vitamin C levels but enhances the absorption of lycopene).
  • Watermelon.

 

Orange and Yellow

Nutrients commonly found in this color family include:

  • Folate.
  • Carotenoids, including beta carotene.
  • Flavonoids.
  • Lutein (protects the eye from cataracts and macular degeneration).
  • Lycopene.
  • Potassium.
  • Vitamin C.

This group can be divided into two groups—citrus and everything else. Citrus does not boast the beta carotene levels of vegetables like carrots, but it is much higher in folate and vitamin C.

Not surprisingly, there are many antioxidants and immune boosters in this group. But there are more goodies that you will find here! The orange/yellow group promotes the building of bones and connective tissue, and it helps ensure healthy pH and blood sugar balances in the body. And, of course, the lutein and beta carotene in carrots and other orange produce will keep your eyes healthy by protecting them from cataracts, inflammation, and age-related degeneration.

Try some of the orange and yellow varieties of these plants:

  • Apricots.
  • Cantaloupe.
  • Carrots.
  • Corn.
  • Lemons.
  • Mangoes.
  • Nectarines.
  • Oranges.
  • Peaches.
  • Peppers.
  • Pineapples.
  • Potatoes.
  • Squash (summer and winter).
  • Sweet potatoes.

 

Green and Yellow-Green

That beautiful green color in fruits and vegetables comes from the pigment chlorophyll.

Here are some of the benefits of eating your greens:

  • Beta carotene.
  • Calcium.
  • Fiber.
  • Folic acid.
  • Isothiocyanates (natural compounds that stimulate the liver to flush out carcinogens).
  • Lutein.
  • Vitamin C.
  • Vitamin K.

Note that this group can be subdivided into two categories—green crucifers (plants in the mustard family) and yellow-green noncrucifers. The crucifers are rich in isothiocyanates, while the noncrucifers supply an abundance of lutein.

This group boasts superb immune-boosting powers. And the high fiber levels associated with these plants will have a positive effect on your digestive system, as well.

Make sure some of these greens have a place on your plate from time to time:

  • Apples.
  • Artichokes.
  • Arugula.
  • Asparagus.
  • Avocados.
  • Broccoli.
  • Brussels sprouts.
  • Celery.
  • Cucumbers.
  • Grapes.
  • Green beans.
  • Green onions.
  • Honeydew.
  • Kiwifruits.
  • Leeks.
  • Lettuce.
  • Limes.
  • Okra.
  • Pears.
  • Peas.
  • Peppers.
  • Pistachios.
  • Spinach.
  • Watercress.
  • Zucchini.

 

Next in series: Blue and white, plus menu tips

Green Foxtail

Green Foxtail

Green foxtail (Setaria viridis) is also known as “green bristle grass,” and little wonder. This common grass has a peculiar upright or nodding cylindric inflorescence covered in bristly hairs. The inflorescence is green on the whole, but often has a purplish tint. It varies from one to five inches in length and can be up to an inch wide. Because of the unusual shape of the inflorescence, it is tempting to classify it as a spike, but it is actually a panicle with many branches—the branches are just very short and hard to find without dissecting the plant. Mutant green foxtail plants with forked inflorescences have been seen in west-central Kansas.

Continue reading Green Foxtail

11 Applications for an Agricultural Interest Besides Farming

11 Applications for an Agricultural Interest Besides FarmingRunning a farm or ranch is not the only way to cash in on your agricultural interest. These days, there are plenty of fields where a knowledge of agriculture and agricultural sciences can be a plus, and where you will have an opportunity to aid those who have chosen to work the land.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Veterinary medicine. Practitioners experienced with livestock work closely with most large farms and many smaller ones, as well.
  • Inspections. Inspectors ensure that USDA and FDA regulations are enforced. Some work in laboratories, others in processing facilities.
  • Scientific research. Science and farming go hand in hand. The points at which agriculture and science intersect are too many to list here, but just to give you an idea:
    • Soil science, the study of the soil and its management and conservation as it relates to farming.
    • Botany, the study of plants of all types. Botanists may research anything from breeding crops for hardiness to the conservation of native species to new food, fiber, and medicinal uses for familiar plants.
    • Plant biology, the study of how plants work, particularly from a genetic perspective. Plant biology differs from botany in that the former seeks information in the lab while the latter seeks information in the field.
    • Animal sciences, a broad field covering the standard American livestock species plus other farm animals kept around the world. Animal scientists can focus their attention on subcategories including physiology, livestock management, nutrition, breeding/genetics, and diseases.
    • Food science, the study of and experimentation with food ingredients and processing techniques with a view to improving food products.
  • Agricultural engineering. Not the same as genetic engineering. This field involves designing logistical solutions to farming problems and needs. Machinery design is a major focus of agricultural engineering, but some engineers work with livestock housing, processing plants, food storage facilities, dams and reservoirs, or even water quality solutions to minimize pollution.
  • Historical scholarship. Some historians pin their focus on agriculture and rural living, preserving and interpreting the past of farming to aid us in understanding its present and future.
  • Agricultural economists. The study of all aspects of agribusiness, including management, law, policy, and rural sociology.
  • Agricultural meteorology. A specific branch of meteorology that connects weather events with their effects on crops and livestock. Agricultural meteorologists forecast crop yields, animal performance, and enterprise risk.
  • Agricultural communications. This field covers a wide array of talent from PR, advertising, and marketing experts to those who write about farming-related topics in magazines and newspapers.
  • Extension. Extension services provide much of the information beginning farmers rely on to get started.
  • Accounting. Many farms hire accountants and bookkeepers to make sense of those tangled numbers.
  • Trucking and heavy equipment operation. These people do everything from transport food to operate hay balers.

Pros and Cons of No-Dig Gardening

Pros and Cons of No-Dig GardeningAre you looking for new ways to improve your garden soil faster? Have you thought about ditching the rototiller?

No-dig gardening, no-till farming’s little brother, offers an exciting way to improve soil with less labor of the back-breaking variety. It also presents a far more natural way to garden—after all, Nature doesn’t own too many rototillers.

Are there pitfalls? The answer is yes. Even so, no-dig gardening may be right for your garden.

Let’s look at the pros and cons to determine the situations where no-dig gardening will be most effective.

Pros

  • Easier on the back. Digging and tilling are hard work. Eliminating those two steps is a great choice for gardeners who are elderly, have back problems, or are a little bit lazy. Add a raised bed or planter to bring the plants up to knee or waist level for even more comfortable gardening.
  • No damage done to soil life. Rototillers tend to disrupt the lives of beneficial bacteria, fungi, and earthworms as they work. While these soil communities will recover before the season ends in organic gardens, the traumatic event is a setback to their work. No-dig gardening fosters life in the soil without interruption.
  • Reduced soil compaction. This one may come as a surprise to you. After all, tillage is supposed to be the way to loosen up the soil in the spring. However, at the farthest depth that the blades can reach, they actually stop turning the soil and start packing it down. If tilling continues at the same depth every year, the soil immediately below the tillage zone turns into hardpan. No-dig gardens will not suffer from compaction as long as the soil health is properly attended to and clearly defined footpaths are provided to avoid trampling the soil.
  • Soil aeration. No-dig gardening is precisely how plants thrive in nature. No wide-scale tillage and subsequent exposure of bare dirt occurs. Organic matter such as fallen leaves and dead grass lies on top of the soil and decomposes over time. Why is having the organic material on the surface important? Because it encourages earthworms to come up from beneath to reach the material, and worm tunnels promote soil aeration.
  • Better use of rainfall. Tillage leaves large areas of bare soil exposed to the sun, wind, and driving rain. The combined action of the baking, the evaporation, and the pounding results in soil with a hard crust on top. This crust in turn prevents rainfall from readily soaking down to the roots. Soil that has not been tilled stays friable, and the layer of mulch on top further aids in the capture of moisture.
  • Fewer weeds. Tillage brings weed seeds up to the surface of the ground to germinate. This can be used to advantage by tilling repeatedly during the same season, allowing several weed crops to germinate only to meet their demise at the hands of the rotating blades. Unfortunately, a lapse in the tillage routine can create a disaster. No-dig gardening keeps piling layers of soil and mulch on top of the weed seed bank, preventing it from ever sprouting and smothering the few weeds persistent enough to attempt germination. Unless you are introducing new seeds from an outside source, you will end up with fewer and fewer weeds the longer you no-dig.
  • Fewer pests. Another counterintuitive effect of no-dig gardening. Tillage is often recommended to expose insect eggs and larvae to the elements (and any helpful chickens that happen to be around). But many gardeners feel that, when done with an eye toward soil health, no-dig gardening seems to attract fewer of the bad bugs, probably because the plants are far healthier overall and have more stable connections with soil lifeforms that offer protection from attack. (The only exception is slugs, as we will see in a moment.)

Cons

  • Scale limitations. No-dig gardening implies the use of mulch and compost. Unless you have the ability to produce industrial quantities of these two ingredients, no-dig gardening will be nearly impossible in a large garden. Going no-dig works best in combination with intensive gardening methods such as square foot gardening.
  • Difficulties with starting in seriously compacted soil. For example, former driveways. Ideally, you will choose a different site for your garden and avoid this problem altogether. If this is not an option, you will probably need to till at least once, likely more than once. The good news is that in this case you will not disrupt the soil community since the odds are pretty high that there isn’t one. (Do not be fooled by naturally clay soils that have not been abused; these are still often quite suitable for no-dig gardening with some care.)
  • Need for designated pathways. No-dig gardening makes it doubly important that people and animals do not traipse through the beds. This can be hard to prevent in some garden plots. If this is your problem, consider a raised bed.
  • The need for plenty of mulch. With no-dig gardening, mulch is absolutely essential to keep the soil healthy and the weeds in check. (The good news is that mulch is strongly recommended for any style of gardening anyway.)
  • Slower soil improvement process. Tilling in soil amendments can create perfect soil instantly. Building the soil layer by layer takes longer at first, although it promotes healthier soil structure in the long run.
  • Slugs. If you live in a wet climate, you will want to be careful with the types of mulch you use, as a stable layer of decomposing straw or grass will invite slugs to move in. This should not be an issue in dry climates.

Conclusion

Yes, no-dig gardening is a very natural way of building good soil. However, it requires an investment.

These two tips may make the transition easier for you:

  • Keep your garden small. Except for those who engage in serious canning, most gardeners can grow all the produce they need in a remarkably limited space provided they use it efficiently. Consider Mel Bartholomew’s advice from All New Square Foot Gardening—plan on 48 square feet for every adult and 27 square feet for every child in the family, the space to be evenly divided between salad vegetables, dinner vegetables, and vegetables for preserving, giving away, or trying out for the first time. A large no-dig garden is hopelessly unmanageable for most gardeners.
  • Consider using straw as your primary source of mulch. High-carbon mulches like wood chips and cardboard have to absorb a great deal of nitrogen from the soil to decompose, leaving less available for your plants and increasing the risk of insect pests, not to mention reducing your harvest. Straw breaks down much quicker, keeping nutrients available in the soil where they belong.

What is the International Letter Code System?

What is the International Letter Code System?The international letter code system is a standardized method of identifying cattle based on year of birth. Each year is associated with a letter of the alphabet. For example, the next few years have been assigned the following letters:

  • 2018: F.
  • 2019: G.
  • 2020: H.
  • 2021: J.
  • 2022: K.
  • 2023: L.
  • 2024: M.
  • 2025: N.
  • 2026: P.
  • 2027: R.
  • 2028: S.
  • 2029: T.

Note that four letters are excluded from the international letter code system:

  • I.
  • O.
  • Q.
  • V.

Letters count back to 1969, the first A year, when the system became popular, and have been rotating ever since. Every time Z is reached, the rotation starts over at A.

 

Using the Code

The international letter code system is typically paired with other identification numbering systems to provide more specific information that differentiates calves born in the same year. Examples include:

  • Adding numbers to indicate order of birth. Thus the first calf of 2018 would be F01 (or F001 if more numbers are needed), while the second calf of the year would be F02, the third F03, and so on.
  • Incorporating the date of birth. So a calf born on March 15, 2018, would be identified as 315F.
  • Combining the letter code with the month and order of birth. In this variation, the first calf of March 2018 would be 301F, while the second calf of the month would be 302F.
  • Giving the calf the number of the cow. This works best in systems where the calves are sold instead of kept on the farm. If cow B050 has a calf in 2018, her calf will be F050.
  • Numbering cattle in order of birth or acquisition. In this case, the 50th cow on the farm would be F050 and the 51st would be F051.

Some cattlemen put the numerals before the letter for male calves (001F) and after the letter for female calves (F001). Others switch the order to distinguish between calves they co-own and calves they own by themselves.

Animals may be identified with their code by means of ear tags, tattoos, or brand marks. Some level of duplicate identification is commonly recommended to avoid accidental lost identity. For instance, a calf might be tagged in both ears or tagged in one and tattooed in the other.

 

Conclusion

The most important thing when choosing an identification system is to have a clear, consistent method of distinguishing one animal from another. Which of the variants listed above will work for you depends on the type of information that you will need to be able to see at a glance.