Branding 101

  • Branding Livestock
  • Branding Tips
  • DIY Branding Iron
A good brand is one that is simple in design and easily applied to the animal leaving a clear, legible brand.

When branding livestock, be sure the brand is positioned correctly and placed on the proper location on the animal. Mis-branding will cause a disputeto the ownership of the animal. This will result in the holding of proceeds from the sale until proof of ownership is established by a Brand Inspector.

Good brands can be achieved by using properly heated irons. The iron, when heated properly, should appear a light ash color. Red hot irons should not be used. Acids and other branding fluids are not to be used for branding livestock. Apply the iron with a light pressure and remove it when the animal moves. Trace the brand until it appears like new boot leather.

Make your branding iron from a good grade of iron. Copper is not recommended, as it is unable to withstand extreme heat and will burn up rapidly. The face of the iron should have a thickness of 3/8 to 1/2 inch. Extensive use of irons will cause them to loose their thickness. Worn irons should be replaced. Continued use of worn irons will result in cutting the animal and will leave an illegible brand.

Clean the irons occasionally by using a steel brush or submerging them into a bucket of sand or used oil.

It is not advisable to combine more than two letters or numbers into one branding iron. Where conditions allow, electric branding irons provide a good method of branding livestock.

Don’t use too small an iron as it will cause the brand to blotch. It is necessary that each letter, number or symbol be proportionate in size, approximately four inches high for calves and six inches high for yearlings and mature cattle.

Adequate time should be allowed to brand livestock. Wet or damp cattle should not be branded as it will result in scalding and cause the brand to blotch. Take your time. Proper branding is a mark of distinction and you want the brand to be recognizable. Observe your freshly branded livestock. A good brand, after it peels, will leave a clear imprint of the brand without scars or open sores. Livestock branded properly are identified for life.
  1. The iron when heated properly should appear to be the color of ashes. A branding iron must burn sufficiently to remove the hair and outer layer of skin. Acids and other branding fluids are not permitted.

  2. It is recommended that a four-inch iron be used on calves and that an iron five inches or longer be used on yearlings or mature cattle. All irons should have a thickness or face of 3/8 to 1/2 inch. A light weight iron should be used to brand horses. Their skin is thin and a very light pressure will produce a permanent brand. Sharp edges on the face of a branding iron should be ground or filed off. A thin or burned up iron should not be used. It will cut the hide and leave a narrow scar that will easily cover with hair. It is not advisable to combine more than two letters or numbers on one iron.

  3. Branding irons should not be used by inexperienced hands. Adequate time must be allowed when applying brands and various other conditions must also be considered. Wet or damp cattle should not be branded as the brand will scald the hide and cause a scar or blotch. Livestock will carry their brands for life - take time to apply with care.

  4. Do not apply a light "hair" brand. It will soon disappear leaving no permanent mark.

  5. Do not brand on top of any part of a previous brand.

  6. Depending on the temperature of the branding iron, age of the animal, hair cover, etc., the branding process should take from five to ten seconds.

  7. Remember, you only need to burn the hair and outer layer of skin. Too deep a brand will result in bleeding and take longer to heal.

  8. A proper brand should be the color of saddle leather when the brand is removed. Rocking the iron during the branding process will insure uniformity on all areas of the brand.

  9. Keep the branding irons free of scale, burnt hair, etc. by cleaning with a steel brush, dipping into a pail of sand or a bucket of oil during use.

  10. Electric branding irons may be purchased from L & H Manufacturing Co. in Mandan, North Dakota.
The following suggestions for designing and making branding irons will help you obtain a legible brand on livestock.

Letters with sharp corners like A, K, V, M, N, X, Y and Z should be made with a ¼” Gap where the corners met.

Closed Letters or numbers like B, O, R, 8, 6 or 9 should have a space or gap cut into the iron to allow heat to escape. This will help to eliminate blotching the brand.

To make the letter O, leave about 1/5 of the circle open. This will allow the heat to escape and avoid blotching the brand. To complete the circle just rotate the iron.
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