Friday, April 19, 2013

MU Extension Livestock Specialist Says Growing Interest in Branding Giving Rise to Common Questions

Contact: Eldon Cole, livestock specialist
Tel: (417) 466-3102

Southwest Missouri beef cattle producers have shown a great interest in branding their cattle this winter and spring following several instances of cattle theft.

With that growing interest in branding, there has also been a number of commonly asked questions, according to Eldon Cole, a livestock specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

“It seems a lot of cattle owners have the same basic concerns and questions. It is good that so many cattle owners are now considering branding It just makes sense to invest a few dollars to provide a bit of insurance to guard against cattle thieves,” said Cole, who has over 40 years of experience as a livestock specialist.

In a special interview session, Cole offered answers to common questions he has received the last few months.

Q: How big does the brand need to be?

A: “The law states the brand must be 3 inches or larger in diameter and have 2 or more characters,” said Cole.

Q: How can a person look at some brands currently registered in Missouri that might help them design their own brand?

A: “The printing of the last official brand book happened in 2012. Copies may be found in some county sheriff offices, county recorder of deeds, some MU Extension Centers and some livestock markets,” said Cole. The brands may also be viewed online at:

Q: Which is best -- a freeze brand or a hot iron brand?

A: According to Cole, freeze brands require much more time, patience, a set of clippers, a coolant and they have variable results. The brand can also be altered with coloring for a short time. However, they are very attractive on dark haired animals and freeze branding does inflict less hide damage than the hot iron brand. The hot iron will require less time. It also gives a higher degree of readable brands when used by a good brander. “Clipping the long hair off a brand site improves readability on both types of brand. Stocker operators lean toward a hot iron brand. This is because they will own the animal for a short time,” said Cole. “Just remember, it is a personal preference for the individual cattle owner.”

Q: What’s the best source of heat for a brand?

A: “There is a bit of personal preference involved. Electric is more popular now, so long as you have power or a generator at the corral. Some have devised effective propane heaters, but a wood fire still works also,” said Cole.

Q: What does an electric, 2-character iron cost?

A: “Between $100 and $125 in the catalogs I’ve seen,” said Cole.

Q: I run cows and calves. When should I brand the calves?

A: “The traditional age is from 2 to 4 months,” said Cole.

Q: Will the brand get excessively large if I brand the calf when it is young?

A: “The brand grows some and I’ve visited with veteran branders about how much they expand. Some believe there is an animal to animal variation as well as the location on the animal. One said the brand that is 4 inches on a young calf’s hip will probably end up about 6 inches at maturity. I know of some producers that use irons of different size for young calves or yearlings,” said Cole.

Q: Would it be best to use a 2-inch brand on little calves?

A: “I would not recommend it, especially if you have what I call a brand that is too busy. A 2-inch brand could end up with poor clarity,” said Cole.

Q: Do I need to apply something to the hot iron brand to speed healing?

“Most do not, but it might make you feel better and cause the brand to heal more quickly. Various oils or ointments would work,” said Cole.

Q: I’m from a neighboring brand state but since I plan to lease Missouri pasture for my cows, should I register my brand in Missouri?

A: Yes.

Q: Do I need to clip the brand location if I’m using a hot iron?

A: “It depends on the amount of hair on the animal. Removing long hair will give you a clearer brand but is not necessary if hair in that location has already shed,” said Cole.

Q: The increased interest in branding is likely due to theft protection. What are other reasons to brand?

A: “Brands help settle ownership disputes between neighbors. Brands serve as the animal’s return address in case of theft or straying. Producers of quality feeder cattle or breeding stock should view the brand as their mark of pride. It really can enhance their marketability,” said Cole.

Q: Are there any restrictions on branding numbers on my cattle for within-herd identification?

A: “The brand law states that the in-herd ID must be at least 10 inches apart from the ownership brand. Otherwise, there are no restrictions,” said Cole.

Q: If I buy branded cattle how can I protect myself?

A: “Request a bill of sale from the seller. It should describe the brand, cattle type and sale date. The county where the animals are located determines which Sheriff investigates ownership disputes. He may call on the services of a veterinarian, approved by the director of agriculture, in reading the brands,” said Cole.


For more information, contact any of the MU Extension livestock specialists in southwest Missouri: Eldon Cole in Mt. Vernon, (417) 466-3102, Andy McCorkill in Dallas County at (417) 345-7551, Dona Goede in Cedar County, (417) 276-3313 or Logan Wallace in Howell County at (417) 256-2391.

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