Whose Cow Is That?
Have you ever seen a brand on a cow? Ever wondered why that's still done in 2018? We still brand our cows and there's a very good reason for it.
In most parts of the American West, cattle still freely graze on public lands, and herds sometimes intermingle and get mixed up. The brand on the side of the cow is just like writing your phone number on your kiddo for a field trip to the zoo. As cattle are gathered and sorted a few times of the year, the wayward animals are given back to the owner of the brand. It's still incredibly important to know whose cow belongs where. And believe it or not, there are still cattle rustlers, which is still very serious and punishable offense.
Some Like It Hot
There are two methods to brand the cattle, a hot iron or a freeze brand. In hot iron branding the iron brand is heated up, red hot, in a fire. Sometimes an electric brand is used where it's just as hot, but heated from electricity instead of the hot coals. The brand is made by scaring the skin.
In freeze branding the brand is the super cold brand is applied to the skin and kills off the pigment producing cells. The brand comes along slowly as the hair regrows without pigment.
In large cattle operations where the branding process is done quickly and the brand needs to be visible quickly, the hot iron is the preferred method.
So why don't you use ear tags instead? We use the ear tag in addition to the brand. The brand is the most critical piece of information while out grazing. With out it that cow could literally be lost, stolen, with the wrong herd and we would have no way of proving she belongs to us.
The ear tag number represents the individual identity of the cow. The tag is placed in the ear just like getting your ears pierced at the mall. The problem with ear tags and pasture raised cattle is the simple. They break, get torn out, and lost in the field. They are not permanent identification and need to be replaced or at least checked on an annual basis.