Freeze branding – a novel anti-theft deterrent for the beef sector

Freeze branding could be used as a means of deterring thieves from stealing beef cattle and suckler cows. Already widely used in the dairy sector to help milk producers identify cows for the purposes of milk recording, the technique is also used by some horse owners as an ‘anti theft’ measure.

Richard Moloney of Tipperary-based Farm Relief Services takes up the story: “Normally the brand is placed underneath the horse’s mane. It is a very straightforward procedure.”

He continued: “I can see the attraction of branding suckler cows as a means of deterring cattle thefts, which continue to be a major issue in certain parts of the country.

“The technique entails clipping the hair on that part of the coat to be branded. In the case of cattle, this is usually the hind quarter.   It is also important to place the brand mark on a dark coloured section of of the coat, thereby ensuring that the mark made stands out clearly.”

Moloney went on to point out that the freeze branding irons are cooled to the correct temperature, using liquid Nitrogen. These are then firmly placed on the animal for a specific period of time-depending on its age. The frozen irons kill the colour pigment in the hair, turning it white within four to six weeks.  The work should be undertaken in the spring or autumn as the higher summer temperatures can create problems.

“Most farmers opt to use the last four digits of the animal’s ear tag number as the freeze brand mark. This also means that the farmer can easily identify the number of the new tag required when replacements are required,” Moloney commented.

According to the Farm Relief Services’ representative, it costs around €7 to freeze brand an animal.

“The mark is indelible,” he further explained.

“Once established, it will remain in place for the rest of the animal’s life. Normally, animals are branded at the yearling stage.  Stock that are branded at a younger age will tend to have larger markings, as the brand will grow in size with the animal.”

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