BRANDING of cattle has come a long way since the days, as often shown in movies, of hot irons sizzling the animal’s hide.
Instead science now provides good animal welfare for permanent branding.
Freeze-branding is a very visible and permanent form of identification.
Wongaru farm in North King Island at Reekara, which has been in Robbie Payne’s family for 60 years, has been freeze-branding almost 800 Angus heifers, a few bulls and second calvers for both Wongaru and Borradale Park, which is managed by the Wongaru crew.
Robbie along with wife, Linda, farm almost 2000ha spread over several blocks of land.
Robbie said Wongaru ran about 1000 Angus breeders and a 100 Hereford.
He also runs about 1000 Corriedale dual-purpose ewes, which are sold as prime lamb to Victoria and to the local King Island market, processed at the multi-species abattoir on the island.
“We run Angus because they are dual purpose,” he said.
“If we can’t fatten them, we can put them into the feedlot.”
“They have better marking options and all the traits that are commercially important.
“Our beef is in Greenham’s Never Ever program, so most are processed at Smithton. The feedlot steers go to JBS.”
Robbie’s crew of Pud Watts, who is also a keen golfer from Yambacoona, and Phillip Hofmann from Naracoopa, joined Nathan Primmer and Bryce Bygate, from Nationwide Artificial Breeders from near Warrnambool, to freeze-brand the Wongaru cattle.
The team worked for about four days to get the job done. In the cattle industry, producers need another form of permanent identification in case tags fall out.
Stud breeders do it because without permanent identification, they can’t register and sell stud bulls and females.
Freeze-brands are applied for 40 seconds per brand and require the animal to be well restrained to avoid movement because this can cause the brand to be unreadable.
Freeze branding requires coolant dry ice and denatured alcohol, for example, methylated spirits used at Wongaru.
The hair is always clipped to improve contact between the iron and skin.
Freeze-branding works by destroying the pigment-producing cells in hair follicles, resulting in white hair growth, which is especially visible with black cattle.
The team attended to any other jobs the cattle needed while in the yard.
It’s been about two years since they last did branding on the farm because Covid interrupted the process.