In the last article, we discussed getting your irons ready for freeze branding. Now we are going to cover the prepping of your animal, which is equally important.
When preparing the animal, you want to choose a good fleshy spot to place your freeze brand. Most of ours are done on the hip. Cattle in better condition will take freeze brands better than cattle that are thin. Weather also plays a factor in how well freeze brands will take – more humid conditions and especially rainy conditions will decrease the outcome of a favorable freeze brand.
If you are planning to get through a lot of animals and cattle are fairly dirty, use of a blower can help get rid of hay that is caught on the hair and skin and will save on clipper blades and help with the cleaning. However, a blower is not necessary.
Clip the area that you plan to place your freeze brand, keeping it a neat, rectangular pattern. This will help give you a “frame” in which to place your freeze brands, keeping them neat and orderly.
Next, soak the area with alcohol, and clean off the excess dirt and hair with a brush. We have found our favorite method to apply alcohol is to put it in an empty 20-liter pour-on jug hooked up to a pour-on gun. A spray bottle will also do, but compared to the previous setup it feels like spraying a garden hose at a hay fire. Plus, most of you have an empty pour-on jug and gun laying around in the barn somewhere. We like a brush with soft, yet firm bristles to get rid of the excess dirt. This should be done at least twice, but if cattle are particularly dirty from being fed ground hay, three to four times may be needed to get the area clean.
After the area is clean, soak it with alcohol one last time, and then grab your irons. Place the irons on your prepped area with good pressure. If animal jumps, re-apply as quickly as possible and add the missed time on to the end. Brand time varies with the age of the animal and how closely the hair was clipped. Hair length and brand time are directly correlated; The shorter the hair, the shorter the brand time. Most brands are applied for 45-60 seconds, depending on those variables.
As soon as the irons are removed, a good indentation of your freeze brand will appear. Following this, the branded area will swell for a few days, and then dissipate. A few weeks later, it will flake off, and a growth of white hair will be seen when hair re-grows. Freeze Branding works by destroying the natural pigment in hair, resulting in the growth of white hair.
If you plan to get through a large number of head in a day, use of two chutes helps significantly (set one right in front of the next). Clip and clean in the back chute, and then do one final clean in the front chute, followed by your alcohol and iron application. This type of setup will also help decrease the amount of dry ice needed.
One final tip: write down numbers and details as to time held, so you can see what works best in your type of cattle if you plan to do it year after year. I wish you all very readable freeze brands!