Universal Ear Notching System

The universal ear notching system is based on the fact that a pig has two ears. The pig’s right ear (as viewed from the rear of the pig) is designated as the “litter” ear.

Universal ear notching system guide. Click on graphic to enlarge. (graphic by Melanie Barkley)

Universal ear notching system guide. Click on graphic to enlarge. (graphic by Melanie Barkley)

Notches in this ear tell the producer which litter the pig was born to. Producers may start with litter number 1 on the first of the year, or re-start the litter numbers several times per year, depending on the number of sows. All pigs born to the same sow have the name litter number, and thus identical notches in the right ear.

    The pig’s left ear designates the pig number within the litter. So, the first piglet would be pig number one, the second piglet is pig number two and so on. (These individual numbers are randomly assigned to piglets. They are not associated with birth order). After notching, an individual pig’s identification would be read as something like 14-6. The 14 represents a pig from the 14th litter and the 6 represents the 6th pig within the 14th litter.

Ear Notching System Details

To further describe the universal ear notching system, pictures are required. Each ear is divided into four quadrants. Each quadrant represents a number. The outside bottom quadrant represents the number 1. If there are two notches in that quadrant, then the number is 1+1 or 2. There will never be more than two notches in any quadrant.

The outside top quadrant represents the number 3, and the inside top quadrant represents the number 9. In the litter ear only, the inside bottom represents the number 27. (We hope you never get a litter with 27 pigs, so you won’t have to use that quadrant in the left ear!) The notch in the very tip of the right ear signifies litter number 81. Unless you have a lot of sows, you probably won’t use that notch.

So how do you notch a litter number 7? In the right ear, there would be two notches in the outside top quadrant plus one notch in the outside bottom quadrant  (3+3+1 = 7). How would you notch for pig number 11? In the left ear this time, one “9” notch in the inside top quadrant plus two “1” notches in the outside bottom quadrant equals 11. By utilizing the “81” notch you can identify up to 161 distinct litters using this system.