Rob Lund

Rob Lunds helps with freeze-branding the calves at the Lund ranch south of Wibaux, Mont.

If you want to get to know someone really well, have them hold freeze branding irons with you all day.

I frequently get the question, “Why do some freeze brands turn out, and some don’t? What am I doing wrong?”

Read on, you may learn something below, or you may learn that you aren’t doing anything wrong at all. These are tips and tricks for freeze branding that we have put together either chute side or over a few beers visiting with friends in the cattle business.

Copper irons seem to work the best. You want them thick enough so they can remain cold while out of the cooling box, at least a quarter inch thick and 1 to 1 ½ inches thick from face to back. Both 4-inch and 5-inch irons work, but if using multiple irons, 4-inch may be better for fitting them on your animal.

We use 99 percent isopropyl alcohol as a cooling medium. Gasoline can also be used, but we have always opted for alcohol, mostly because we don’t want to smell gas all day. Gasoline tends to work better as a cooling medium if it is humid out because it will not take on water from the air like alcohol will.

The cooler box you use to keep your irons cold should be insulated to help maintain a cold temperature. We have a metal box that fits snugly inside of a styrofoam cooler. We have a rack on top that divides our cooling box into 12 squares, which is extremely handy for keeping organized.

Freeze branding tends to work better in younger animals. The best time to do it is when a new hair coat is starting in the spring or fall.

With that being said, a lot of freeze branding is performed during the winter months and is successful. The brands just take longer to appear when compared to an animal that is freeze branded during the spring or fall.

The temperature will affect how rapidly you go through dry ice, so keep that in mind when ordering your dry ice.

Dry ice normally comes in 12-pound blocks. Depending on the temperature, it takes at least two blocks to get the alcohol in your cooler box to the desired temperature. You want to break up the dry ice into fairly small pieces before adding to the alcohol in your cooler box, maximizing the interface between the alcohol and dry ice so the alcohol medium can be cooled more effectively.

When deciding how much dry ice to order, we generally order 10 to 20 pounds more than the number of animals we are freeze branding. If it is warmer out or you plan on trying to keep the dry ice over night, you will need more. The more animals you freeze brand, the less dry ice you generally need per head.

Now that you have you irons chilled and ready to go, come back in a couple of weeks to find out more about prepping your animal and the process of freeze branding.

In the mean time, I wish fair weather upon all of you!

This is the first part of a two-part series on freeze branding. The next article will appear in the Feb. 1, issue of Tri-State Neighbor.

Questions? Send email to Eric Knock, DVM, at or send mail to 321 E. 14th St., Miller, SD 57362. Eric Knock owns and operates Prairie View Vet Clinic in Miller, Redfield and Highmore, S.D.