Branding our cattle - Part 2 - how to brand

Feb 26 2014 0 Comments Tags: branding, cattle

As I said in Part 1 (registering a brand), I do not support the compulsory branding of cattle in QLD, but unfortunately under the QLD Brands Act 1915 (Section 24) it is illegal to sell unbranded cattle, with the penalty being 6 months jail!  So we will continue to brand them until the law changes (believe me, I'm trying to figure out how to make that happen).



Options for branding
The traditional method of branding is "fire branding" in which a red hot iron brand is held against the skin of the cattle for 2-3 seconds to leave a permanant mark.  I have read all sorts of rubbish about it not hurting the cattle, but I've seen for myself they can be standing in the crush perfectly calm and as soon as that brand touches them, they will struggle and cry out.  Of course it hurts them.

There are a few alternative methods if you MUST brand.  One is freeze branding, which uses dry ice to mark the skin of the animal.  This requires special equipment and more work, but apparently the skin numbs and so the cattle doesn't feel as much pain.  I doubt that this is a very popular method, I don't even know where to get dry ice in the South Burnett, and I'm sure the more remote you get the more difficult it would be.  Also the equipment works out to be more expensive and making the brand (custom made to match your symbol) is more of a specialist job.

You can also get a device that immobalises the cattle (the one I know of is called stock still), which can reduce the stress of being branded (but surely it still hurts them after they are released).

We decided to use fire branding because its simple, its easy to get the equipment and to set it up at any time.  Ideally we shouldn't have to brand at all, but if I can't get the law changed, maybe we will look at some of the less painful methods I mentioned above.

As I said in the last post, we got our brand made by a local blalcksmith.  While it is possible to just light a fire to heat the branding iron, we decided to buy a gas furnace.  This means we get a nice hot iron (and get a good brand on the first attempt), we don't have to wait for a fire to be hot enough and we don't risk starting a bush fire.  I keep forgetting to take a photo of our one, but here are some similar examples.  They are not cheap, but sometimes its worth buying the right tool for the job!

The branding procedure
We usually brand weaners right before we need to sell them.  We will start early in the morning and work all the cattle through the yards, doing what needs to be done to any cows, and separating the weaners into a pen.  Then we get the furnace hot and prepare the ear tags (yes, we also have to ear tag them, see how the brand is redundant!).  We bring the weaners up through the race and catch them in the head bale, we tag them and then Pete gets the branding iron hot enough and holds it to the rump of the animal for 2-3 seconds to create a nice clear brand.  It usually takes them a few seconds to react, which is just enough time to remove the branding iron before they struggle and smudge it.  Then we let the poor thing go and bring in he next victim weaner.  If we are organised and everything goes smoothly, it can be quite a quick process.  Unnecessary, frustration, but quick.

Do you brand cattle?  What method do you use?  Would you support a move to optional branding in QLD?

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