North Dakota Cattle Ranchers Now Have an Alternative to Hot Branding

by Raju Chaduvula, Forum News Service,

Under North Dakota House Bill 1166, freeze branding became a legal method for ranchers to show ownership of cattle, according to the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association.

Freeze branding uses dry ice or liquid nitrogen to cool a branding iron, which is then pressed into an animal’s hide to mark it for identification purposes.

The process alters the animal’s color where marked and the hair grows back white, as opposed to hot branding which leaves a scar. In addition, freeze branding is often regarded as a more humane method of branding because it causes less pain to the animal, according to a February 1992 study in the Journal of Animal Science.

“Freeze branding is used to prove ownership over horses and mules, and was only used for identification purposes in cattle,” said Julie Ellingson, NDSA executive vice president. “Now, cattle producers have two methods to use when showing ownership over their livestock.”

Ellingson said branding works in a similar way to title registrations with vehicles. The brand on an animal shows proof of ownership and if an animal is ever sold to another farm or crosses state lines, the brand shows proof of a sale.

Shane Stevenson, Traill County brand inspector who owns horses, said he uses freeze branding on his own livestock and that when done properly, the freezing process is more visible than hot branding.

He said the only problem with freeze branding is when the animal has a light-colored hide because the brand shows up white in color.
But freeze branding, as with hot branding, only works if it is done properly, Stevenson said, adding that branding also helps curb the issue of livestock stealing.

“That’s the best way to prevent your animals from being stolen or lost,” he said. “It’s pretty hard to hide a brand.”