The Viva Vine: vol #6, no #1: January / February, 1997


Improving branding methods

Freeze branding: How to...

by Larry Specht

Professor of Dairy Science
Department of Dairy
and Animal Science
Penn State University, 6/11/93
Document Number: 289023

Best results are obtained when:

  1. Branding is done in the fall or spring of the year when the hair is actively growing.

  2. Animals are 4 to 15 months of age. Young animals are easier to restrain.

  3. Liquid nitrogen is used as a coolant.

  4. Freeze brand area is clipped prior to branding if there is much hair growth.

Materials needed:

  1. Coolant-liquid nitrogen works best but a mixture of dry ice and 95% alcohol (ethyl, methyl, or isoproply) can be used.

  2. Insulated container for the coolant-picnic coolers can be used with dry ice and alcohol but a modified AI semen tank works best for liquid nitrogen.

  3. Set of copper or bronze alloy freeze branding irons-available in 2, 3 or 4 inch sizes (numbers or letters) from agricultural supply houses. Three inch irons work well on cattle 4 to 15 months of age

  4. Alcohol-ethyl, methyl or isopropyl-to saturate hide before branding.

  5. Heavy gloves

  6. Squeeze bottle for alcohol.

  7. Brush to remove loose hair and dirt.


  1. Place irons in container, coolant should cover heads with several inches of liquid. When irons are cold, solution will stop "boiling."

  2. Restrain animal and brush off loose hair and dirt from brand site. Caution: animal's haircoat should be reasonably dry!

  3. Soak the area with alcohol before each iron is applied.

  4. Select iron and apply firmly to brand site. Maintain pressure for 20 seconds on black (or brown or fawn colored areas) and for 35 seconds on white haired areas.

Brands should be fully visible in 4 to 6 weeks. Clipping the branded area on long-haired animals in winter will provide better visibility.

Additional details on freeze branding are available from the:

Dairy Science Extension office:
8 Borland Lab
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park, PA 16802.

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