Branding a cow is required by law in the United States. Branding with a hot iron actually dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans while hieroglyphics show Egyptians actually branded oxen as far back as 2600 BC. Hernando Cortez brought cattle with him when he came to the new world in 1541. His cattle were branded with three crosses showing his ownership in the livestock.
Design and Register Your Brand
Your brand must be registered with your state authority before you can begin using it. All brands within a state a registered according to characters making up the brand and the location on the animal the brand is used. Each brand is unique to prove the ownership of an animal. Once your new brand has been researched to be assured of its uniqueness, you will be issued a brand card. You will need this document for any purchasing, selling or inspections.
Purchase an Existing Brand
Brands do expire if not renewed on a regular basis. In New Mexico, a brand must be renewed every three years. Brands that are no longer used can be sold by the owner if the registration has not expired. The transaction must be registered with state authority and ownership of the brand is transferred.
Brand your Livestock
There are several options for branding your livestock. Livestock auction houses will often brand your livestock for you for a small fee. They have a good selection of single character irons on hand as well as special equipment for holding the animal still. Just bring your animal, present your brand card and pay the fee. Usually, by the time you are done paying for the fee in the office, your cattle are branded and being loaded back into your livestock trailer.
Use Your Own Branding Irons:
If you have had your branding irons made, you can also brand your own livestock. Be sure the animal is completely immobilized before you touch the hot iron to the hide. Briefly touch the iron to the animal’s side where the brand is to be placed. The animal’s muscles will spasm. Immediately remove the iron for a moment. This helps to numb the area where the brand will be placed. When the animal stills, press the hot iron back into the animal’s hide for a few seconds. You will know the brand will peel and scar correctly when the hide beneath the brand is caramel in color and evenly scorched.
Brands do not require any special care while heeling. If you are having a problem with flies, you may use a salve to protect the brand from gnawing insects. The animal may be a bit shy for a day or two but will be back to their normal habits within three days.
It takes about thirty days for a brand to peel. In most states, you must wait until the brand is peeled before you can sell the animal.
Branding your livestock is a responsibility you need to take seriously. Many people have run afoul of the law by not branding their livestock promptly or trying to sell the animal without it being legally branded. In New Mexico, any cow bought has to be branded by the new owner within 30 days of purchase to be in compliance with the law.
Cowboy Showcase: Livestock Brands
Cowboy Showcase: State Livestock Brand Agencies