Freeze Branding

Farmers and ranchers brand their cattle so they can identify them from a distance and note which herd or owner they belong to. Freeze branding is easier on the animal than hot irons and doesn’t damage the hide. The marks become white and are highly visible, although it doesn’t work on white cattle, such as Charolais.

Taylor Grussing is an Extension cow-calf field specialist at South Dakota State University. She says freeze branding can be done just about any time in an animal’s life with one exception.

"Usually people will do this for replacement heifers before one year of age, or sometime between the first and second year of age. We try to avoid doing it on pregnant animals just to reduce that stress," says Grussing. "And depending on where we’re putting it, if we’re putting it on the hip or on the ribcage, those areas of impact maybe are a little bit more strenuous on a pregnant animal, so usually yearlings is what we advise."

Keep the irons in a cooler with 99% isopropyl alcohol and dry ice. While the animal is in the chute, clip a rectangular area of hair where the brand will go and then spray it with alcohol. Hold the frozen irons on the animal for :55.

"When you’re done holding the irons on the hide, there should be an indentation from where that brand was held and that is one indication that you got a good contact with the skin," she says. "In 3-4 weeks, those numbers should start peeling off, and then white hair will grow up through the hide where that skin had fallen off."

Learn more about freeze branding and the procedure