Let me just say at the start that I do not see the need for branding our cattle. Now that digital ear tags are compulsory as part of the NLIS (National Livestock Identification System), branding seems completely obsolete. However, in QLD, if we want to sell any cattle over 100kg (and we surely will want to sell them all eventually), they must be branded, and so we brand them.
I have contacted the RSPCA over this issue and they say that they support dry-ice branding
as a better option, however these systems are expensive and difficult to set up, requiring access to dry ice, which is not practical for farmers in remote locations. And they are still painful for the cattle. I hope that they are really working behind the scenes to outlaw this barbaric practice altogether, as it seems to be optional in some other states already. It is really just a waste of farmers’ time, as we have to tag the animals anyway (which is quicker than setting up a branding furnace!), cruel to the animals, an unnecessary risk of infection and a safety risk to handlers.
I can understand using brands on large properties, where neighbours’ cattle may intermingle for some period of time before they are noticed, but on a small property, where we keep different breeds to our neighbours, I can’t see the point. I think that branding should be optional and if some farmers really want to use it, that's up to them. I do not look forward to hurting them for no good reason, and each time I hope that I don’t get hurt myself. But, until things change, we will be forced to brand all cattle born on our property (except for any that we intend to kill on the property).
In order to brand the cattle we had to register a brand. This was the only fun bit of the entire process. I spent considerable time looking through the QLD brands database
to find a suitable brand. Starting with combinations of P heart L (owwww) which was already taken, and working through the combinations of CRsomething for Cheslyn Rise, we eventually found that CNR was available. CheslyN Rise. Near enough.
We then followed a process that I suspect has changed little since the introduction of the QLD Brand Act in 1915. First we had to find out all our neighbours’ brands (a great way to meet the neighbours), fill in a form with the brand that we wanted, and send that away with our money ($85.35 in fact). We waited several weeks and then a certificate arrived with our brand printed on it, to prove that we are now the owners of CNR.
We then had to get the brand made. Pete could probably have made it, but it was easier to get it made by a blacksmith who does them all the time. He built us a very nice stick with our letters on the end.
We were lucky that most of the first round of calves were branded before they were moved to Cheslyn Rise, but eventually, we had to brand some of our own before we could sell them. I will write about that process in part 2.
What do you think about branding cattle? Is it safe? humane? worth-doing?