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Boshoff Beyers - Cattle Branding Why it’s used

Cattle branding has been used by humans for thousands of years, and it is mainly used for livestock identification. In ancient times this technique was used during ritualistic acts, whereas in Europe through the Middle Ages, hot cattle branding was used to locate the owners of the cattle. This is an act that has been used through history. In fact, branding in the American West is mostly associated with cattle rustlers and trail drives.

However, in modern times, cattle branding is used to identify animal ownership, where other methods of identification are used like tattoos and ear tags. Branding remains a very important tool for the American West because there is a great deal of public land which is very important to those raising cattle. On such ranges, it is not uncommon for cattle to get confused with other herds or wonder off. Additionally, there are even cattle rustlers you must still watch for. Therefore, having the ability to recognize a cow’s owner using a brand is very important.

In many cases, specific animals are branded with numbers on their hip or side to make them identifiable. Brands are frequently used especially in purebred cattle dealings so the animal’s original owner can be identified after the animal has undergone a change of ownership. It’s most common for cattle brands to be placed on the side, behind the hip or on the shoulder. Beware not to over-brand though, as it can decrease the leather value of the cow’s hide.

At one time, most cattle branding was done with a hot iron that was heated in a barrel or fire pit. This branding technique tans the hide, thus leaving a scar where the brand touches the skin. It is still currently used on many big cattle ranches near the Colorado Springs area.

Other techniques used for cattle branding involve electricity or freezing. This is a fairly new style where the electricity is used to heat up the branding iron. Freeze branding kill cells that produce pigment which causes white hair to re-grow in the spot. Both techniques leave the cattle branded in a manner so you can see them from afar, if done correctly. Though branding causes no long-term pain or harm to the cow, it may bawl or budge for a few moments.

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