CryoBranding or freeze branding was developed by Dr. R Keith Farrell from the Washington State University in 1966. Branding cattle and horses with extremely cold branding irons cooled by dry ice, their natural coat is replaced with white hair in the branded area.

This method of cooling is used to lower the temperature of the branding iron in such a way that when the iron is applied on the skin it changes the hair follicles permanently. The intense cold destroys the colour pigments in the animal’s hair follicles, this ensures that all hair growth thereafter has no colour.

It creates a high white contrast mark in the form of the brand iron’s design. Longer administration can also permanently damage the hair follicle, this is used on paler animals. In these instances, the loss of hair leaves a bold or hairless area on the skin in the shape of the branding iron.

This method of branding is not as damaging to the animals’ skin like traditional hot irons.

Here is what you need to know about freeze branding.

What is the main advantage of freeze branding?

Freeze branding with dry ice is becoming more popular because this permanent identification is clean, neat and presents more aesthetically pleasing results, it can be used for either the owner’s registered brandmark or to identify the individual animals with a numbering system.

Additional advantages:

  • Freeze branding identification will not fade or rub off over time, it is a permanent, neat, and highly visible brandmark.
  • The brandmark can easily be seen from afar.
  • Cattle and livestock can be identified easier.
  • These identifying brands is ideal for use in dairy farming and is a prerequisite for accurate milk surveys.
  • Freeze branding is more effective than tags, because these can get lost, the numbers can fade, or the tags become unreadable due to mud and manure.
  • Pregnant heifers can be branded without the risk of abortion.
  • Calves can be branded from 1 month old, keeping in mind the mark will grow with them.
  • The ideal age for freeze branding animals is from 5 months up.

The process is effective because it eliminates the colour pigmentation that give hair their colour. Because an animals hide reacts less to colder temperatures, the use of a cold iron is less uncomfortable for them than a warm iron.

Meaning this method of branding horses and cattle is widely more acceptable by farmers as they don’t need to immobilize their animals seeing that there is no pain factor present when applying the brandmark.

In comparison with more penetrating techniques like fire or electric branding, freeze branding is softer and less penetrating and will ensure lifelong visibility, which in turn will ease the process of finding lost cattle.

This process however does take longer to complete when it is compared to hot branding methods but cause less emotional stress for the cattle. The farmer will also have to learn how to handle the specialised equipment to ensure the freeze branding is a success.

How does the freeze branding process work?

The iron used for the branding of large cattle ensures the hair loses colour and turns white within 30 to 40 days.

Dry Ice and Isopropyl alcohol deliver some of the best and most readable freeze branding results, because it is considerably colder and more effective due to the high alcohol content.

Timing is important with freeze branding and large cattle’s age, weight and health must be taken into consideration.

Replacement heifers must be branded when they are one year old otherwise the mark will grow with the animal. This will ensure that you have more branded cattle by the time they start reproducing and calving.

Using a unique numbering system freeze branding can be an effective method to identify your herd of cattle.

Freeze branding irons are usually made from copper alloy. Though some irons are made from bronze, copper irons historically deliver the best results due to their conduction.

Freeze branding irons can be distinguished from hot irons through the absence of strategically placed notches in the metal, these ensure that redundant heat escape. Freeze branding irons is a solid copper alloy iron poured in a long mould cast and is not bent like hot branding irons. The handles are shorter and the space for the mark is larger.

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