Branding is a common method of marking cattle, but old methods with hot irons are unpleasant to man and animal. Freeze branding is a much kinder alternative as there is no pain involved for the animal and less damage is done to its skin. The marks are also later more noticeable and easier to read from a distance, making herd management more efficient and easier.

How does freeze branding work?

Cynthia Oliver, a freeze branding specialist says, “When done correctly, freeze branding damages melanocytes (the skin cells responsible for creating color) and results in hair that is white or gray in color.”

How is freeze branding performed?

Animals to be branded must either be confined to a small space where they cannot move about freely or, ideally, be restrained in a neck clamp. This will help keep the animal still while being handled.

Shave the area where the mark will be placed. Keep the branding irons in the container with the dry ice and isopropyl alcohol coolant for a few minutes, or until the branding irons reach a temperature of -147 degrees Celsius, Cynthia advises.

To remove any oils or dirt that may prevent the iron from making good contact with the skin, rubbing alcohol should be used to wipe the freshly shaved area where the brand will be.

Here the place for the mark has been shaved and disinfected.

How long should the iron stay on the skin?

Depending on the animal’s color, different times are required for skin contact. A timer is necessary if you want to ensure that the branding iron is used for the correct time.

To ensure that the entire branding iron makes contact with the skin, apply moderate pressure. If the animal moves or the iron loses contact with the skin, pause the timer, position the iron correctly and start it again.

A noticeable indentation is left after the iron is removed from the skin; it disappears over the course of the next five minutes. “After this, no sign of the mark will be visible, and the white or gray hair will begin to grow out in 30 to 40 days,” explains Cynthia.

Time required for dark coloured cattle

The branding iron should be pressed against the skin for 55 seconds. The place where the branding was done will develop white or gray hair as a result.

Time required for light coloured cattle

The skin must be in contact with the branding iron for 70 seconds. This will cause no more hair to grow in the shape of the brand. This happens because the freeze-marking procedure completely destroys the hair follicle. The animal’s true white, blue or black skin will eventually be visible as the animal’s hair falls out and does not grow back.

What advantages does freeze branding have over hot branding?

Freeze branding is a stress-free procedure, according to Cynthia, because it causes no discomfort to the animal and does not require anesthesia. Calves as young as six months old and pregnant cows can be safely branded. No medical care is needed afterward because the freeze-marking procedure leaves no raw or open wounds.

For more information call Dry Ice on +27(0)12-810-0500 or visit their website at