What is freeze branding?  Freeze branding is a branding technique that changes the color of an animals’ hair by using a freezing-cold branding iron to kill the cells that produce color pigment.

Freeze branding is increasing in popularity across the US.  A to Z Feeders, a family owned and operated feedlot in Iowa, took some time to answer a few questions we had about freeze branding. They told us they have been freeze branding for 6 years.  They stated that a few benefits from this method of branding are; “being able to identify your animals even if they lose their ear tag identification and identifying stolen cattle. In addition, freeze branding seems to be less painful to the animal.”

What you’ll need:A to Z Feeders

  • Head gate or holding chute
  • Dry Ice
  • Alcohol (must be 99% grade)
  • Clippers
  • Gloves
  • Something to watch the time (stop watch, clock, phone)
  • Branding Iron (Brass is preferred)
  • A well-insulated bucket (large enough to hold the branding irons)

The process of freeze branding is simple.  First, you make your cryo-fluid coolant.  To do this you will need to place both the 99% alcohol and dry ice into the well-insulated bucket. Then, lower the branding iron down into the mixture to chill. Make sure the mixture is completely covering the branding iron, and the mixture will begin to bubble. Once most of the bubbles dissipate the branding iron is ready for use.

After you have your cryo-fluid coolant ready to go the next step is to prepare the animal.  To begin, the animal should be properly restrained.  Then, the brand site should be clipped, making sure all the dirt and loose hair are removed. Finally, clean the area with room-temperature alcohol.

Once the animal has been properly prepared you are ready to begin freeze branding. Remove the branding iron from the cryo-fluid coolant and place firmly on the brand site. Branding time differs between animals. For instance, dark animals take less time than lighter animals to brand. Calves and cows take approximately 40 – 60 seconds to freeze brand, however, colts and horses only take approximately 16-24 seconds. Once you have firmly pressed the branding iron onto the branding site for the allotted time you will notice a frozen indention in the animals hide.  After 10 minutes you will start to see swelling at the brand site. This swelling will disappear within a few days and white hair growth will begin at approximately the 2 month mark.

Find a list of all the Continental Carbonic locations here for all of your cryogenic or freeze branding needs.