Freeze branding involves using a branding iron that has been chilled with a coolant such as dry ice or liquid nitrogen. Rather than burning a scar into the animal, a freeze brand damages the pigment-producing hair cells, causing the animal’s hair to grow white where the brand has been applied. Freeze brands cause less damage to the animals’ hides than hot iron brands, and can be more visible.
To apply a freeze brand, all hair is shaved at the branding site. This is because hair is an excellent insulator, and must be removed so the extreme cold of the freeze branding iron can be applied directly to the skin. The iron, made of metal such as brass or copper that removes heat rapidly from the skin, is submerged into the coolant. Immediately before the iron is applied, the animal’s skin is rubbed, squirted, or sprayed with a generous amount of 99% alcohol, then the freeze branding iron is removed from the coolant and held onto the skin with firm pressure for several seconds. Besides livestock, freeze branding can also be used on wild, hairless animals such as dolphins for purposes of tracking.
Hot Iron Branding
Hot iron Branding involves ensuring that the iron is at the right temperature, it takes 3-5 seconds to apply a brand to cattle with a light hair cover. Cattle with extensive hair growth should be clipped before branding, otherwise, it will take longer than necessary to apply the brand.
Hot Iron Branding can be done quickly by pressing firmly and rocking the handle slightly to apply the character evenly. Rocking the handle will prevent over-burn or under-burn in any one spot. When the iron is lifted, the hide should be a buckskin color.
If the branding iron is lifted too soon, it will leave a temporary brand that will disappear entirely when the animal changes hair. If the iron needs to be applied a second time, apply it in the exact position of the first design. Holding the iron on too long causes unnecessary pain and excessive burning. It also produces a wound that takes a long time to heal.
Don’t brand livestock when their hair is damp or wet. A branding iron applied to wet hide loses its heat fast, scalding rather than burning the branded area.
This involves other form of livestock identification such as numbering systems, neck chains, nose printing, electronic identification, and tattooing. The numbering system is a way to identify animals in a herd.
It does this by putting together a letter and number to represent the year born and the birth order. The neck chains are a common way of identification with dairy cattle. The chain is labeled with a tag that has a number on it that goes along with the identification numbers. Nose printing is a common way of identification in the sale ring and at exhibiting show with some livestock. This method is like finger printing: it uses ink and cannot be modified. Electronic identification is where an electronic ear tag, microchip, or collar is placed on an animal by implanting the chip. This is done in case a tag has been misplaced.