Recently I have been developing my skills in Freeze branding. Here I share a few thoughts on the process and some key facts which help explain the method we use to provide permanent ID on cattle.
Freeze branding uses copper alloy irons chilled in a solution of dry ice (frozen C02) and an alcohol solution of Isopropanol (methylated spirits). On darker haired cattle application of these chilled irons alters the pigmentation of the underlying hair follicles (turning black/coloured hair white). Freeze branding was first developed in 1966 By Washington State University and has predominantly replaced the use of hot branding. Studies from the USA provide clear evidence that in comparison to hot iron branding, freeze branding causes less of a stress response in cattle (smaller increase in heart rate and fewer circulating stress hormones). This must mean that the cattle experience a lower level of pain.
The cattle are clipped in the desired area and brushed with isopropanol which creates good contact with the skin. The irons are chilled to -78°C in the dry ice solution (which takes about 20 minutes), and then placed onto the area to be branded, held in place with slight pressure. Darker cattle require about 30 seconds of contact time, with around one minute for lighter coated animals.
A healing period follows with scabs forming over the branded area. This process is completed within around 3 months by which time the cattle are permanently identifiable.
John Adams – Synergy Farm Health, Vet Tech