A brand protects you and your livestock with proof of ownership. In many states, it is illegal to sell a cow that has not been branded. The notable exception is young calves that are sold with their branded mothers. Freshly branded cattle cannot be sold either. The brand has to peel before the livestock inspectors will approve the animal for sale. This takes about thirty days from the time the brand is placed on the cow.
The History of Branding Livestock
Branding livestock dates back to 2700 BC where hieroglyphics in Egyptian tombs document branding oxen. Slaves and livestock were marked with a hot iron by the ancient Greeks and Romans as well. In America, Hernando Cortez introduced branding in 1541. The cattle he brought to the new world were stamped with his mark of three crosses.
Selecting Your Brand:
Brands cannot be duplicated within a geographical area. Multiple character brands can include attached figures, letters, numbers, and either reversed, slanted, or sideways. The combination is placed on the animal in a single location. Choose your desired brand by considering what looks good and what will work best for the animal. Closed shapes and letters such as an “O” or “A” can be complicated for the animal to heal. The area inside can scar and blur the brand image. It is better to stick with open characters such as a T, C or Z which will heal easier.
Choose the simplest brand possible keeping in mind that the brand will have to be burned into the animal’s hide. A simple brand is easiest on the animal and the handler.
Registering a Brand
Each state has a different authority who oversees the registration and compliance of branding livestock. A brand has to be registered with the authority. The brand is made up of characters and the location of the brand is also specific in the registry. If you are branding an animal with an “S”, the “S” must be placed in an area that is not registered by anyone else in the state. Locations for brand placement include the hips, ribs, shoulders, neck and cheek on either the right or left side of the animal. Once the brand is registered, all livestock must be branded in exactly the same place with the same design of characters.
Types of Brands:
There are two types of brands. The most common is done with hot irons that burn into the hide of the cow. The least common, and unrecognized in some states, is the freeze brand. The freeze brand does not scar the animal but it removes any color pigmentation from the hair where the brand is placed. If you have light colored livestock, such as a Charolais, this will not work for you.
The heated iron is pressed firmly against the animal for a few moments. A good brand that will peel easily is about the color of caramel or saddle leather.
Cowboy Showcase: Brands