Once you have registered a brand, the next step is to get an iron with your brand and also a set of number brands if you wish to individually identify your cattle. Excellent brands for freeze branding are manufactured by L & H Mfg., Mandam, ND. They are made of copper alloy and come in various sizes. I like 4 inch best. A set of numbers and a brand will cost around $200-250 depending on the size selected.
1. A brand and/or set of number brands as needed.
2. Good head gate and squeeze chute is a must to hold the animal as still as possible while the brand is being applied.
3. Animal hair clippers with sheep head blades.
4. Animal hair clippers with the thin surgical blade (EA1-sur) made by the Stewart/Oyster Co. Used with the regular top blade (83AU), it will chip real close. It is best to have two sets of each type of blades on hand.
5. A stiff rice root brush and towel for cleaning the brand area.
6. Alcohol in a mister bottle. The best bottles are the ones costing about $2, normally used for misting flowers and sold by garden supply shores. Again, its best to have two on hand, because they wear out fairly rapidly. WalMart carries the misters.
7. Dry ice and alcohol for cooling the irons. Alcohol must be 99%, not 70%. It is also to be used in the mister bottles. We get out alcohol from Valley Vet, Maryville, KS 800-468-0059
8. Container or two large enough to set all the brands on the bottom at one time for cooling.
9. A large clock with second hand to be used for timing of brand application.
Freeze Branding Procedure:
1. Break up enough dry ice to cover the bottom of the container(s) with at least two inches of ice. Pour enough alcohol over the ice to cover the ice and the brands placed down in the ice. Add more ice and alcohol as needed during the day. As soon as one is done using a brand place it back in the ice and do not use again until bubbling stops.
2. Restrain the animal in the chute by the neck and tighten the squeeze chute on the body as much as is possible.
3. Clip the hair in the area to be branded. In the winter or spring use a sheep head clipper first, clean the area with a brush and alcohol, followed by the other clipper with the surgical blade to get the hair as short as possible.
4. Again clean the area with the brush, followed by alcohol and a towel to get the area absolutely clean.
5. Just before placing each and every brand, saturate the brand site with alcohol from the mister to provide liquid contact between the iron and the hide. This step is critical to obtaining a good brand because alcohol will evaporate quickly.
6. Apply the brand to the hide for 75 seconds, all the time spraying more alcohol on the brand with the mister every 10 seconds or so. This technique has done more to improve our bands than an other single thing we have changed in the thirty years we have been freeze branding. Watch the clock hanging beyond the chute to determine the elapsed time.
Notes and Observations:
1. Animals will react somewhat less to the super cooled iron as opposed to a hot one, but they will still try to jump, usually about ten seconds into branding. If the brand is knocked off its location during branding, just reapply and add an extra 5 seconds plus the time lost.
2. One will have a good idea if the brand is done properly if the hide area is frozen stiff. One can determine this by taping with your fingernail. It should feel like taping on a ice cube. It will take four to six weeks for the brand to show up nicely.
3. Alcohol will migrate thru a styrofoam cooler, but not a plastic one, so plastic works best, however I happen to have and use styrofoam ones. I simply don’t leave the alcohol in them over night.
4. Make some arrangement where you put the irons back in the cooler each time in the same place, while you are using them for the sake of efficiency.
5. Safety is very important, never let an iron, alcohol, or ice touch your skin (it is 110 degrees below zero). Always wear good gloves while branding. Also do not smoke because the alcohol is very flammable.
dry ice-get at least a pound per head-I like it in one inch slices, then place it in a plastic sack and beat it up with a hammer. Leave in chunks larger than ice cubes.
irons-numbers and/or brand
99% alcohol-at least a gallon per 10 head
coolers with number covers (plywood with rectangles to drop brands thru works good)
spray bottles clock with second hand
two clippers with extra blades
WD-40 screwdriver to change blades
funnel to put alcohol back in bottles hammer brush & rags
The author of these instructions recommends you register a brand, get the equipment, and start freeze branding. Not only will it deter thieves, but you will appreciate the convenience of permanent, easy to read identification. By the way, hot and cold brands are now an accepted replacement for tattoos on Registered Angus Cattle.
The most important thing to get good brands, is to take the time to do it right. That is the reason for most all failures.
(Evan Rayl is the Editor of Livestock Plus, Greenfield, IA, Past President of the Iowa Angus Association, and a 55 year Angus breeder at Bridgewater, Iowa.)