Browsing Posts tagged brand

R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America

 

“Fighting for the U.S. ! Cattle Producer”

 

For Immediate Release                                                                         Contact: R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard

December 21, 2011                                                                                          Phone: 406-252-2516; r-calfusa@r-calfusa.com

 

8 Days (Now 10) of Opposition to USDA’s Proposed Mandatory Animal Identification Rule:  Part VIII of X-Part Series

Billings, Mont. – To minimize the size of the last scheduled news release in R-CALF USA’s 8-day series, R-CALF USA is extending the series for two more days. Each daily news release provides a detailed explanation of the reasons our members vehemently oppose the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS’) proposed mandatory animal identification rule titled, Traceability for Livestock Moving Interstate (proposed rule).

With this effort, R-CALF USA hopes to bring to light many of the dangerous aspects associated with the proposed rule that R-CALF USA described in its voluminous comments submitted to APHIS on Dec. 9, 2011. Click here to view the entire 41-page comment submitted by R-CALF USA, which includes all of the group’s citations to specific references that are removed from this news release to save space.

Part VIII:  APHIS’ Proposed Rule Is an Affront to the Cattle Industry’s Centuries-old Brand

 

  1. APHIS’ Proposed Rule Discriminates Against States that Require Brand Inspections and Brand Inspection Certificates as a Condition for Leaving a Brand Inspection Area and Discriminates Against Cattle Producers Within Those States that Pay for and Rely on Brands and Brand Certificates to Identify Their Cattle

 

  1. APHIS’s proposed rule ignores the historical effectiveness, functionality and permanence of the hot-iron brand as a means of identifying cattle and groups of cattle.

 

APHIS is acutely aware of the superior permanence of the hot-iron brand as compared to ear tags.  In its final rule to allow the importation of Canadian cattle 30 months of age or older (OTM rule), APHIS distinguishes brands as “permanent identification,” while separately requiring, in addition to permanent identification, an official ear tag to be placed in imported Canadian cattle (EXHIBIT 24, p. 53378 col. 1). In fact, ear tags are not even mentioned as acceptable means of permanent identification, with only freeze brands, hot-iron brands, and tattoos expressly listed among the acceptable, permanent means of identification (EXHIBIT 24, p. 53378 col. 1). In addition to permanent identification, the OTM rule also requires the individual identification with an official ear tag of the country of origin (EXHIBIT 24, p. 53378 co! l. 1).

 

APHIS’ purpose for requiring permanent brands on Canadian cattle along with ear tags is succinctly explained in the OTM rule. APHIS stated, “We recognize that animals can lose eartags at various points in the process. . . (EXHIBIT 24, p. 53340 col. 1).”

 

The foregoing discussion reveals that for disease traceback purposes, even for cattle originating in regions that APHIS has deemed a “minimal-risk” for disease, APHIS requires a three-prong traceback system:  1) it requires the permanent identification of the animal using a brand or tattoo; 2) it requires individual identification with an official ear tag; and, 3) it requires visible information on the animal to denote the animal’s origin (EXHIBIT 24, p. 53379 col. 1).

 

R-CALF USA agrees that this three-prong traceback system is a science-based means of achieving functional traceability on livestock that may be subject to a disease investigation.  The system has needed redundancy to address the inherent propensity for ear tags to be lost, and it provides visible information that enables any person to identify the origin of the animal.

 

APHIS’ proposed rule fails completely to explain why the three identification elements needed from minimal-risk regions are not needed to provide a science-based traceback system for U.S. cattle. Nor does APHIS explain which of the three elements are most important to ensure the ability to conduct tracebacks, e.g., is it more important to have permanent identification or are loss-prone ear tags equally functional for disease tracebacks? And, APHIS fails completely to explain why the ability to visibly identify the origin of the animal is not even necessary for domestic traceback purposes.

 

If the requirement contained in the OTM rule is science-based, than the proposed requirements in the proposed rule are not.  This is because the proposed rule incorporates only one of the three elements required in the OTM rule, and the one it has incorporated is not even recognized by APHIS as a permanent form of identification. The proposed rule depends exclusively on an official ear tag that bears a U.S. shield and a number:  it does not require permanent identification (indeed it expels permanent identification from its list of official animal identification devices), and it does not require ear tags to bear visible information to i! dentify even the state from which the animal originated. APHIS further fails to explain why privately-owned U.S. cattle must bear a U.S. shield for the privilege of moving across a state line. Such a shield is of no use to disease investigators and if a shield is to be required at all, it should be the shield of the state from which the animal originated, at least then a person could immediately initiate a disease investigation by calling the animal heath officials in the state of origin should an animal be detected with a disease. Better yet, the animal should bear the shield of the property’s owner – which is precisely what is accomplished with a registered hot-iron brand.

 

APHIS contends it cannot require all states to accept brands because all states do not have brand inspection programs. At the same time, however, APHIS’ proposed rule requires all states to accept ear tags that do not allow any visible means with which to ascertain the origin of an animal. For example, the APHIS approved 840 ear tag does not contain an identifier that denotes the state of origin.  Therefore, an animal health official without immediate access to an expensive, electronic wand or a national database has no means of initiating an immediate traceback of the animal. On the other hand, if an animal was transported to a state with a brand, then the animal health official could immediately narrow the animal’s potential origin to those states that have a ! recognized brand authority that issues brand certificates. APHIS is disingenuous in its claim that non-brand states cannot accept brands while it simultaneously requires non-wand states to accept 840 electronic tags.

 

APHIS’ proposed identification requirements for cattle lack any scientific justification. APHIS has thrown the proverbial baby out with the bath water by refusing to adopt even the core elements of current U.S. disease programs that APHIS itself acknowledges were “tremendously successful” in the agency’s efforts to eradicate brucellosis.. See 76 Fed. Reg. 50081, col. 3. The highly successful brucellosis program, not surprisingly, incorporated each of the three prongs APHIS requires of Canada:  1) the program recognized brands as official identification, which provided a high level of redundancy; 2) the program required an official ear tag! ; and, 3) the ear tag contained visible information with which to immediately identify the state of origin.

APHIS’ claim that its goal is to shorten the time necessary to conduct disease tracebacks is proved false by APHIS’ failure to adopt the historically proven, simple, and visible state identifier, such as two-digit numeric code that denotes the tag’s state of origin, on all of its approved ear tags.

 

The role of the permanent brand in contributing to the United States’ “tremendously successful” disease program is profound. In a March 9, 2010, article by James C. Clement, D.V.M., Cow-Calf Research & Consulting, Dr. Clement explains the profound contribution that brands and brand programs make to generating animal tracking data every day, along with describing how critical tracking data are compiled.  Dr. Clement states:

 

Animal tracking data is generated every day in Brand States and is the byproduct of routine record-keeping processes that involve cattle marketing businesses and SBIS [State Brand Inspection Systems]. SBIS create inspection certificates associated with the movement of 27,000,000 head of livestock (primarily cattle) on an annual basis (EXHIBIT 25).

 

APHIS cites no study, nor does it have any nationwide experience in conducting animal disease tracebacks without relying upon the animal tracking data generated by brand states. Indeed, APHIS has not cited any system in the world that can hold a candle to the brand states’ ongoing generation of animal tracking data for 27 million head of livestock, primarily cattle, which represents about one-third of the entire U.S. population of cattle and calves.

 

APHIS has no scientific basis for delisting the hot-iron brand accompanied by a certificate from a recognized brand authority from the list of official animal identification devices or methods, or in any way demoting the hot-iron brand to a level below any other form of animal identification.

 

Based on the hot-iron brand’s role in generating animal tacking data for tens of millions of livestock, APHIS’ proposed rule that delists the brand from the list of official animal identification devices will reduce the United State’s ability to timely trace disease suspects to the disease source.

 

R-CALF USA encourages readers to share this information with their neighbors, state animal health officials, and their members of Congress. 

Rustling costs ranchers millions in poor economy

By JIM SUHR, AP Business Writer

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Even with cattle theft rampant in much of the nation’s midsection, Oklahoma rancher Ryan Payne wasn’t worried about anyone messing with his cows and calves. By his estimation, his pasture is so far off the beaten path “you need a helicopter to see it.”

Branding a cowThat changed last month when Payne, 37, checked on his livestock and found a ghoulish scene: Piles of entrails from two Black angus calves he says thieves gutted “like they were deer.” They made off with the meat and another 400-pound calf in a heist he estimated cost him $1,800.

“Gosh, times are tough, and maybe people are truly starving and just need the meat,” he said. “But it’s shocking. I can’t believe people can stoop that low.”

While the brazenness may be unusual, the theft isn’t. High beef prices have made cattle attractive as a quick score for people struggling in the sluggish economy, and other livestock are being taken too. Six thousand lambs were stolen from a feedlot in Texas, and nearly 1,000 hogs have been stolen in recent weeks from farms in Iowa and Minnesota. The thefts add up to millions of dollars in losses for U.S. ranches.

Authorities say today’s thieves are sophisticated compared to the horseback bandits of the rugged Old West. They pull up livestock trailers in the middle of the night and know how to coax the animals inside. Investigators suspect it’s then a quick trip across state lines to sell the animals at auction barns.

“It almost has to be someone who knows about the business, including just knowing where to take the cattle,” said Carmen Fenton, a spokeswoman for the 15,000-member Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, formed in the 1870s specifically to combat cattle rustlers. “It’s crazy to think we’re still in business.”

There’s no clearinghouse that tracks thefts nationally, but statistics among certain states are staggering. In Texas — the nation’s biggest cattle producer — and to a lesser extent Oklahoma, some 4,500 cattle have been reported missing or stolen this year, according to Fenton’s group. The association’s special rangers managed to recover or account for $4.8 million in stolen ranch property each of the previous two years, most of it steers, bulls, cows and calves.

Such thefts also are happening in places once spared. In southwestern Missouri’s Jasper County, not far from a regional stockyard, about 100 of the nearly 180 head of cattle stolen this year were snatched during a recent six-week stretch, sheriff’s Lt. Ron Thomas said.

Branding a cow“Occasionally one or two have gotten stolen (over the years), but not this many in such a short time. They’ve gotten us big time,” he said, figuring the stolen livestock have been whisked off to another state. “These guys are not your typical fly-by-night, let’s-steal-a-cow kinda people. They know exactly what they’re doing. They’re pretty slick, and they’re bold.”

Investigators have found clues to be elusive, partly because thieves often artfully conceal their crimes by replacing pasture fences they’ve cut to get to the animals, Thomas said. Ranchers unaccustomed to counting their cattle each day may not realize any are missing for a week or more, and by then, any tire tracks or other evidence — perhaps even DNA or fingerprints from a soda or beer can discarded by the bandit — may be gone.

The other problem is that while brands are widely used in the West, three states hard hit by livestock thefts — Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas — don’t require them. That’s hampered investigators’ efforts to match recovered cattle to owners or to relay to stockyards markings to watch for when strangers haul in livestock to be sold.

Without brands, “ranchers could tell me their missing cow is brown and white, but goodness gracious, go down the road and you’ll see thousands,” Thomas said.

While a voluntary national livestock identification system exists, few ranchers and farmers participate in it and those who do fear that the rustlers will simply cut off the ID tag in seconds.

“Unfortunately, cattle don’t have a serial number that goes with them or some type of permanent ID” short of branding, said Jim Fraley, an Illinois Farm Bureau livestock specialist. “Thieves look at it as an opportunity and can market the cattle under their name. It’s a fairly easy thing to do.” Hot iron branding is the only proven method of ID that is permanent. Hide brands can not be removed or changed like electronic pens or ear tags.

In Ohio and Pennsylvania a single cattle rustler stole over $400,000 cattle. He was wise in never acquiring a single animal with a hot iron brand. Those stolen with ear marks or tags were quickly removed, therefore leaving no ID for law enforcement to track. The lack of hide brands invites a new breed of cattle rustler.

Owners’ vigilance has paid off in some cases. A Colorado rancher who was hunting prairie dogs spotted one of his branded, missing cows on another man’s property. Deputies swooped in and found 36 cows and 31 calves worth $68,000 and belonging to nine different people.

An Alabama rancher reported a couple of his cattle missing, and then two more were stolen the next night, Chilton County Sheriff Kevin Davis said. Sheriff’s investigators installed cameras on the property but got nothing before pulling them days later.

Not long after, the farmer called because he spotted two men with a pickup truck and what turned out to be a stolen trailer on his land. Deputies arrested the men and found five of the six missing cows — half of them pregnant — at various locations. The sixth animal already had been slaughtered.

Davis credited luck and the rancher’s “heightened alert” for snaring the two suspects.

“The boldness is the thing — for them to come back three different times to the same pasture,” he said. “Obviously, they didn’t feel very threatened about being caught. But I’ve never given criminals credit for having high intelligence.”

And they’re not finicky. An Ohio woman has been charged with taking $110,000 worth of frozen bull semen — which can valuable to breeders in even small amounts — from a liquid-nitrogen tank at a Moorefield Township genetics company where she once worked.

Nor are all the thefts big. Someone recently made off with two horses — ages 16 and 7 — from a home near Hanover in northeastern Illinois’ Jo Daviess County.

Back in Oklahoma, Payne replaced old wire gates on his ranch near Chelsea, with “big, old heavy-duty steel ones,” hoping to safeguard his other cows.

“That’s about all I can do,” he said. “Like everyone says, it never happens to me. I guess that’s wrong.”

Seattle PI

Western Rangers fight push to give up brands

Craig and Mary K. Vejraska pose at their cattle ranch June 17, 2011, in Omak, Wash. They support the use of cattle brands in a new animal identification program. Photo: Shannon Dininny / AP

Craig and Mary K. Vejraska pose at their cattle ranch June 17, 2011, in Omak, Wash. They support the use of cattle brands in a new animal identification program. Photo: Shannon Dininny / AP

OMAK, Wash. (AP) — Ranchers have long used brands to keep track of their cattle and deter rustlers, but many now fear branding will become just another relic of the Old West as federal regulators look for new ways to track meat from hoof to plate.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has been trying for years to develop a program that would allow regulators to pinpoint animals’ location with 48 hours of a disease possibility. The political pressure has become greater as other nations demand the U.S. adapt a costly electronic system to trace exported meat back to the farm. Other countries are attempting to enforce a government numbering system, such as Canada and Australia, hoping for a competitive advantage which is not yet proven.

After seeing little success with a voluntary tracking program, the USDA has said it will require farmers and ranchers to be able to trace all livestock and meat shipped or sold across state lines. The USDA’s final proposal is due out this summer, and while it’s leaving it up to states and tribes to decide what kind of tracking to implement, it’s pushing for high-cost ear tags.

Whether states also want to recognize brands is up to them, said Abby Yigzaw, spokeswoman for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

That’s not enough for some cattle ranchers, who are angered by what they see as big-footing by the federal government. Ranchers note that brands are permanent, while ear tags can fall out. But more than anything, support for brands is about holding on to a piece of the past that is proven to work economically.

“It’s just one of the things that keeps the honest people honest,” said Craig Vejraska, whose cattle sport the letter V, surrounded by a circle, on their left flank as they roam across 300,000 acres of tribal and national forest in Washington state. “It’s a tradition.”

Bill Bullard of R-Calf USA, an advocacy group for ranchers, said brands provide a permanent means of identification that has proven instrumental in helping track cases of brucellosis and eradicate it from the domestic herd.

“We find this decision outrageous that the USDA would level a direct attack on what is an iconic symbol of our industry and what has been a tried, proven and effective means of conducting disease trace backs,” Bullard said.

One reason federal officials haven’t embraced brands is that they aren’t used nationwide, said Bill Donald, a Melville, Mont., rancher and current president of the National Cattlemen‘s Beef Association, which represents both ranchers and meatpackers. Fewer than 20 states enforce brand laws to keep tabs on cattle, and nearly all are in the West or Midwest. However, the Department of Agriculture does record a registered brand in every state and charges a fee.

Brands are used in the East, even though ranches are smaller and herds don’t graze on public lands. They still help prevent theft.

Brands haven’t been needed in the East, where farms are smaller and herds don’t graze on public lands.

“Being from a brand state in Montana, I have learned firsthand that our animal trace back should include brand laws,” Donald said. “But they should all be used to complement a national system of identification.”

In Texas, the nation’s No. 1 beef producer, brands are registered at the county level, which means there could be duplicates within the state. For that reason, members of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association understand the USDA’s position, said Eldon White, the group’s executive vice president. But, they also don’t want brands eliminated.

Cattle rancher Craig Vejraska shows off one of his brands at his ranch in Omak, Wash. on June 17, 2011. Vejraska supports the use of cattle brands in a new animal identification program. Photo: Shannon Dininny / AP

Cattle rancher Craig Vejraska shows off one of his brands at his
ranch in Omak, Wash. on June 17, 2011. Vejraska supports the use of
cattle brands in a new animal identification program.
Photo: Shannon Dininny
/ AP

“Brands are a very important method of owner identification in Texas and will continue to be so,” White said. “We would be very concerned and would fight against a movement to eliminate the use of brands altogether.”

But the prospect of pairing brands with some other means of identification hasn’t mollified Western ranchers like Vejraska.

As his pickup bounced along a rutted, dirt road in the Okanogan National Forest, Vejraska pointed out cattle that bear his brand grazing in a meadow. Ear tags that dangle can easily get lost when animals graze in brush, next to fence lines or in harsh weather out on the range, he said.

“Our brand is 50 years old. It’s an essential identifier up here when you’re on the range,” he said. “I see my circle-V, and I know it’s mine.”

Go

Go

SAN ANGELO, Texas — Since a new framework for animal disease traceability was introduced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture last year, cattle raisers have been up in arms for fear that the centuries-old hot-iron branding methods may be on the way out.

Instead, the USDA wants every cow to have a unique numerical ID, stamped on an inexpensive ear tag, to make it easier to track animals from the ranch to feedlots and the slaughterhouse.

Even as the USDA says it never set out to undermine the traditional brand, cattlemen feel that when the government steps in it will make things more complex. They also fear the withdrawal of federal support for branding might embolden animal-rights activists who call the practice barbaric.

The new rules set to replace the National Animal Identification System were strongly opposed by numerous livestock industries and associations, including Fort Worth-based Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.

Although Western movies showing cowboys branding cattle with a hot iron have created the image that the practice started in the Old West, documented history gives verification the practice goes back thousands of years to the days of the ancient Greeks, Arabians, Romans and Egyptians.

Branding was actually introduced to the New World in 1541 by Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez. Branding of cattle became common in the United States after the Civil War. It was said that brands of every shape and design were on Longhorns coming out of Texas during the great trail drives of the 1800s.

Brands are registered in Texas by the county clerk of the county in which a rancher runs livestock. The brand must be registered by the county clerk for the brand to be considered a legal means of ownership. Texas brands have to be re-registered every 10 years.

When I worked for The Cattleman magazine in Fort Worth during the mid-1960s, a favorite assignment was visiting the brand department to research histories of cattle brands. The brands allow TSCRA special rangers quick identification of stolen cattle.

The cattle raisers association has 29 special rangers stationed strategically throughout Texas and Oklahoma who have in-depth knowledge of the cattle industry and are trained in facets of law enforcement. All are commissioned as special rangers by the Texas Department of Public Safety and Oklahoma’s law enforcement agency.

TSCRA market inspectors aid the special rangers by collecting brands and other identifying marks on 4 million to 5 million cattle sold at 115 livestock markets each year. The market inspectors report their findings to TSCRA’s Fort Worth headquarters, where the information is entered in a database retrieval system. It is that database a special ranger checks when receiving a theft call.

“Branding’s the simplest, most efficient way to do it. Why change?” Wil Bledsoe, a Hugo, Colo., rancher, recently told the Wall Street Journal.

“It is a great deal easier in court when stolen animals are fire branded. Prosecutors prefer to try cases where the animals have been branded,” said Scott Williamson of Seymour, a TSCRA special ranger.

Modern cattle rustlers would delight in the current highly promoted electronic ID. Any cattle rustler could easily remove, replace, change and/or cut off ear tags and electronic pins.

The goal of the new USDA framework should be to enable the cattle industry, state and federal animal health officials to respond rapidly and effectively to animal health emergencies, say TSCRA officials.

Cattle raisers remain engaged with state and federal animal health officials to ensure that any animal disease traceability program is solely for the purpose of responding rapidly and effectively to animal health emergencies and does not affect ranchers’ ability to market cattle, officials said.

Jerry Lackey writes about agriculture. Contact him at jlackey@wcc.net or 325-949-2291.

Editor Comment:  Rumblings from US cattle producers over USDA removing branding, their time tested tool to prevent cattle rustling, has reached the businss ears at WALL STREET JOURNAL.  This article articulates the problem, yet straddles the fence of detail and fact.  First, the “inexpensive ear tag” mentioned costs from $7 to $26 per critter and in Australian tests over 32% are lost or destroyed within two years.  As the USDA promotes expensive electronic ear tag devices, no removable ear tag in history has held up in a court of law for livestock title — yet hot iron brands are permanent and conclusive.  Take a lesson from history, not a temporary attachment. USDA plastic-removable animal ID is “flawed thought” and WSJ knows it!

Video

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The Bledsoe family and other ranchers across the West are resisting new government rules stating that branding will no longer be recognized as an official form of identification for interstate commerce. WSJ’s Stephanie Simon reports from Hugo, Colo.

HUGO, Colo.—In the chill of a damp spring morning, rancher Wil Bledsoe pressed two red-hot branding irons to the flank of a bellowing young calf. The smell of burning hair filled the barn.

When Mr. Bledsoe lifted the irons, the calf jumped up, wobbled a moment, then scampered back to his herd, a frying-pan logo seared into his shaggy hide.

Branding day has unfolded this way for generations on ranches all across the West. But ranchers from Colorado to Oregon, from Montana to Texas, worry that the tradition is under threat. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced plans to rewrite its regulations so that hot-iron brands will no longer be recognized as an official form of identification for cattle sold or shipped across state lines.

Instead, the USDA wants every cow to have a unique numerical ID, stamped on an inexpensive ear tag, to make it easier to track animals from ranch to feedlot to slaughterhouse.

Branding Day at the Bledsoe Ranch

[SB10001424052702304066504576341754012316080]J.D. Schier watches cows walk into a different pen during a morning of branding on the Bledsoe ranch outside Hugo, Colo.

The proposed regulation won’t bar ranchers from branding their livestock. Individual states will be free to recognize brands as official ID if they so choose. And some ranchers who have tried the numerical IDs say they are no hassle and can actually be an asset, as they allow more detailed record-keeping on each individual cow or steer.

“It’s worked real well for us,” said Alex Johns, a resource director for the Seminole tribe of Florida, which has used bar-code ID tags for several years under a USDA pilot program. Mr. Johns said the tags helped the tribe sell their cattle at a premium price, as buyers had confidence the animals were tracked closely from birth and any health concerns noted and addressed. Keeping genetic records on heifers’ ID tags, he added, helped manage breeding programs to ensure birthing season brought healthy calves.

Nonetheless, ranchers across the West are up in arms.

The new rules, which the USDA will publish in draft form within weeks and which are scheduled to take effect in about a year, threaten “the United States cattle industry’s iconic, centuries-old, hot-iron brand,” a national coalition of cattle ranchers, known as R-Calf, wrote in a letter to the USDA. Rep. Dennis Rehberg, a Montana Republican and fifth-generation rancher, filed a similar protest.

Ranchers say they fear the withdrawal of federal support for branding might embolden animal-rights activists who call the practice barbaric. Some ranchers fear the new rules could even erode the legal standing of the brand as proof of ownership in cases of lost or stolen cattle.

The USDA says it never set out to undermine the traditional brand. Officials say the ID system will let them respond quickly if a diseased animal shows up in the meat production cycle, allowing them to track down other animals that a sick steer came into contact with.

Such track-backs have proved difficult for the USDA in the past. In 2003, 2005 and 2006, animals infected with mad-cow disease surfaced in the U.S. In each case, investigators had limited success identifying or locating livestock that might have been exposed to the sick cattle.

But branding advocates say none of the three animals was marked after birth with a registered brand from a U.S. ranch. One had been imported from Canada, one had no identification at all, and the third was traced to a Texas ranch that “kept very few herd records,” a USDA report on the case said.

Bill Bullard, chief executive officer of R-Calf, said tracing the animals would have been far easier had they been marked with an indelible brand, which, unlike an ear tag, cannot fall off or be cut out. Insisting that every one of the nation’s 93 million cattle has its own ID is “unnecessary, overly burdensome regulatory overreach,” he said.

Branding, brought to the New World in the 1500s by Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez, is today common across states like New Mexico, Texas and Wyoming. The marks can be seen from a distance and help ranchers settle ownership disputes when cattle trample fences and mix with a neighbor’s herd. Many states keep a registry of brands, so there won’t be two ranchers using the same Lazy J or Triple Dot. State brand inspectors say the practice also deters rustling, as thieves can’t remove the identifying mark.

And on many ranches, branding day is a communal affair. “The cultural tradition can’t be overemphasized,” said Taylor Haynes, a fourth-generation rancher outside Cheyenne, Wyo.

On the Bledsoe ranch in Eastern Colorado, family members spent a morning castrating, vaccinating and branding calves in practiced motions that took just 60 to 90 seconds an animal.

“When government steps in, they like to make things more complex,” Mr. Bledsoe said. “Branding’s the simplest, most efficient way to do it. Why change?”

Write to Stephanie Simon at stephanie.simon@wsj.com

An electronic animal ID system has been the passion of USDA for over 18 years. Recently, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced that hot iron branding was an acceptable form of future animal ID.

History completely agrees with the secretary’s findings.

Branding History

The western cowboy did not invent hot iron branding. The documented history of branding goes back for thousands of years. Scenes of oxen being branded on hieroglyphics are depicted on Egyptian tombs as early as 2,700 BC.

Hot Iron BrandingHot iron branding animal ID, for proof of title, has not changed for over 5,000 years. The book of Zechariah records this process in chapter 3 verse 2, “a brand plucked out of the fire.”

On a darker side of history, the use of a hot iron as proof of ownership went beyond cattle to an area people today prefer not to think about, the ID branding of human beings. From days of the ancient Greeks, Arabians, Romans and Egyptians, slaves were often marked as property with a small brand by their owner. The practice has continued in slave owning countries around the world. More recently branding has been used on prisoners and self branding which is termed “art branding” or “scarification.”

Hernando Cortez is credited with bringing the first branding irons to the Americas in 1541. His personal holding brand was three crosses.

Branding became common in the US after the Civil War. Eventually, in Canada, the second session of the Northwest Territories government on August 1, 1878 established a law requiring all livestock to be branded.

Brands of every shape and design were visible on every Longhorn that came out of Texas during the great trail drives. Spanish brands are often artistically designed with cursive, complicated circular characters. The western American ranchers chose simpler block and open shapes, which proved harder to alter and easier to read.

Designing a Personal Brand

Designs and names of brands are as colorful as the people who use them. The traditions and pride of ownership attached to brands is a volume in itself.

Selecting a brand can be a simple thing or as detailed and historically meaningful as the owner desires. Most brands are based on the owner’s or the ranch’s initials. They may be a symbol, letter, number, character or combinations of connected or separate figures. A brand symbol, for example, may be a hat, fish, pitch fork, shovel, hook, bell, spur, staple, horse shoe, or wine glass. The list goes on.

Brands are read like books from top to bottom and from left to right. Without a doubt, it is a historical, respected, language all it’s own.

A branding iron should be of quarter-inch clean iron made to the desired shape. Small cattle should be branded with irons about 3″ tall and larger adult stock can be about 4.”

A horse iron can be as small as 2″.

The handle should be about thirty inches long with an end grip holding device. When applied to stock, separate letters should be at least one inch apart so as not to appear attached.

Notches or “breaks” are necessary on all irons where the bars join or intersect, about 1/4″ to 3/8″ wide. This prevents blotching in the corners. Letters like the top point of an A are particularly prone to blotch and always should be left open. Letters like L, C, U, I, J, S and open shapes yield themselves to clean readable brands.

Holding Brand Registration

No ownership holding brand should be applied until legally registered. Registration is done in most states through the Dept. of Agriculture. A brand design is submitted for approval and recorded for a set fee, and only the recorded owner of that design can legally use it on their livestock.

No two brands will be registered that are, or appear to be, the same design. In the eastern U.S. many states only have a few hundred registered brands, so it is easy to acquire a simple, clean brand.

Colorado, on the other hand, has registered over 60,000 brands making it difficult to get a new brand with less than 4 letters. Texas, not to be outdone, claims over 230,000 registered brands on the books.

Code Brand Records

Simple brand codes may reveal to the owner information like pedigrees, year of birth, or ranch division where born. In order to keep the brand process simple and requiring minimal time to apply, fewer letters are always better.

A single number indicating the year of birth is quite often used. The current year 2010 would be “0”. At a glance the owner can easily know the year of birth. The year code can be part of the regular numbering system, over, under, in front of, or beyond the animal ID brand number. Brands are simple and can be recorded on a paper tablet providing a permanent record that lives well beyond the life of the animal. The numbering process is practiced by most ranches providing a non duplicate ID for every animal traceable through the records of USDA through the state brand registration system.

Confinement

Successfully applying a clear distinct ID brand requires the recipient to be still. In the open range, cattle were roped and laid on the ground for branding. Some of the best clear brands are done this way.

The same process can be used in a small herd where the critter is physically laid down, not on the open range, but in a back yard corral. This is recommended for young calves, and not adults.

When adult cattle are branded, a metal squeeze chute is safe and efficient. The side squeeze chutes eliminate the head catch and restrain the critter better from head swinging. This provides safer name tagging, vapor tagging, and OCV tattoos. Plus, the side swing confinements are always the safest for releasing an animal from either side. A general purpose chute sells for $1250 to $2500.

Animal Safety/Care

All processes in cattle care should be bloodless. Although tags and pins are numerous, each tag entry can puncture arteries, hide, muscles and pierce major ear cartilage, which always bleeds. With bleeding can come infection, insect attraction, irritation, or partial loss of hearing and ear function.

The searing process of branding should never draw blood and is self sealing. It becomes a permanent ID in seconds and no medication should be needed in the future.

State Brand Laws

Secretary Vilsack has wisely acknowledged the State Brand Inspection Systems (SBIS) are good animal ID. From the Mississippi west every state has brand laws and inspection procedures, with some dating well over a hundred years old — well tested by time. Branding is economical and a system currently in use by nearly every major cattle raiser. It doesn’t require more fees, expanded USDA staff, computer education, high tech equipment purchases (not proven to perform under range conditions) or pernicious enforcement fines. The old brand laws work for all the right reasons. Last year SBIS visually inspected and documented 27,000,000 cattle according to James Clement, DVM. (See Animal ID, Another View)

Heating the Irons

More irons have been heated with wood than any other way. A hot wood fire serves the purpose well. Today most people are in a hurry and use either electric irons or heat with propane. A small propane bottle will heat a lot of irons and may be transported easily without the limitations of an electric cord.

The iron, when heated properly, should appear a light ash color. An iron heated in a flame will first accumulate carbon and appear very black. A black iron is too cold. It may be hot enough to burn or singe the hair, but not hot enough to penetrate the roots of the hair follicles, essential for a permanent mark.

Red hot, yellow, or white irons should be cooled before use. A red hot iron may brand too fast. The beauty of clear clean brands comes with experience.

Applying the Brand

It is impossible to make a rule for the length of time the iron should be held to the hide, because the condition of the hair and the temperature vary.

To apply the brand, move the handle in a slow, rocking motion which will vary the pressure. A critter is not a flat surface so a flat iron may not clearly mark at all corners. It is better to remove the iron after a couple of seconds, check the mark and reapply the iron to the parts not adequately branded. Always error on the light side rather than over doing the time and pressure.

With the first brand effort, test the result. Hand rub the brand and briskly remove the charred hair. If the animal has been properly branded, a clear outline mark of the complete brand will have a saddle leather light rust color to it.

On the other hand, if the iron was not hot enough, only the hair will be burned and short partially branded hair will be in the brand design. Re-heat and place the iron exactly on the same spot and allow additional time.

RFID ID Tags in Europe

In Europe numerous ear tag computer methods are used. Year by year more electronic ear devices become mandatory, attached at birth. (calf already has 4 tags - required by law)

When branding is complete, a generous rub with bacon grease using a paint mitten will promptly soothe and lubricate the hide.

An adult steer has hide 10 times thicker than a human. A good brand only enters about one tenth into the total thickness of the hide. Penetration of the skin’s epidermis outer layer is the goal of a correct brand. Correct placement is below the hair and above the dermis tissue.

What is the Real Reason?

Proof of title is the historic reason for a brand. It has worked for over 5,000 years. It is the best permanent ID for an owner’s records. Permanent fire brand ID not only works on a live animal, but continues to be a valid ID on the hide after processing. Unfortunately, there are always unscrupulous people who want to steal or “rustle” livestock. In the fifth century BC, I Chronicles 7-21 records that the whole family of Ephraim was killed for “trying” to rustle cattle.

Modern cattle rustlers, which are numerous, truly love the current highly promoted electronic ID. Any cattle rustler can easily remove, replace, change tags and electronic pins. To speed up the process rustlers order a Tag-Sav-R Ear Tag Remover from Nasco for $25.75. Nasco Tag-Sav_RThis jiffy Safety Tag Knifetool was developed to back-out the pin arrow and allow a person to replace it into another animal. It only takes a couple seconds on most pins. If $25.75 cost too much, Nasco has a more affordable Safety Tag Knife for $3.95, cut those unsightly tags out and throw them away.

To think the 840 pins are legal ID or even correct source verification is absurd.

When a rustler is in a hurry to haul-out, it only takes a second to cut the whole ear tip off. That is not a permanent animal ID — ask any successful cattle rustler.

Special TSCRA Ranger Scott Williamson, who is working on several rustling cases in Texas says, “It is a great deal easier in court when stolen animals are fire branded. Prosecutors prefer to try cases where the animals have been branded. If you can prove to the prosecutor that he’s going to be able to absolutely identify an animal in court, he knows he’s not sticking his neck out to take the case.”

No type of animal ear ID has ever held up in court for a conviction, yet hot iron brands have.

Every major cattle producing nation on earth used fire brands. The permanence and stability of a fire brand is superior to all other ID methods including the old “brite” USDA tags that are being newly promoted for ADT.

So, after the smoke and the dust are settled, and all the government bureaucrats have put up their crayolas, trust your neighbors — but fire brand your cattle!

USDA wanting to end Fire Branding as means of ID

We should have known this would happen! Now USDA is planning to de list the hot-iron brand from the list of “official animal identification devices.” As all cattle producers know, the hot iron ID and holding brand system is the basis of historic permanent ID. If the federales oppose hot iron branding it could easily be assumed that PETA and other animal rights wackos will grab on the coat tails of USDA. A day could come that only the NAIS digital ear tags would be allowed. As with other idiot federal enforcements in the last two years, they can eventually smell egg on their own faces, and to protect their bureaucratic gravy-trains, crawfish backwards and renege their plan.

In the last few years trusted farm and cattle organizations have prostrated with USDA’s pitiful ideas. When they could have opposed bad judgement, they allowed costly enforcements to be enacted and cattle producers pay the price.

Most do not know what USDA is now planning. This is a USDA conspiratorial step to resurrect the flawed-thought of the hated NAIS. You have not been warned about this in the cattle media as they also understand the profitable nature of a passive attitude toward their consistent advertiser, USDA.

Only one organization is on their toes, alert and ready to defend the US cattle producers — R-CALF USA. The attached letter gives the position (not passive) of R-CALF. Each cattle producer should support R-CALF in their efforts to defend producers from USDA’s cumbersome-costly and ominous regulations, like delisting hot iron branding. Every professional producer understands the value of fire branding for permanent ID and prevention of cattle thefts.

If you are a USA citizen and cattle producer, it is very profitable to join and support R-CALF. Attached is a membership application.

Why R-CALF USA Opposes USDA Proposal to Delist Brands

The hot-iron brand is part-and-parcel to the culture and heritage of the U.S. cattle industry. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has long recognized the importance of the brand as a permanent means of identifying livestock, not only for determining ownership, but also for conducting disease investigations. USDA regulations concerning interstate transportation of animals include the registered brand, when accompanied by a certificate of inspection (certificate) from a recognized brand authority, as an official identification device or method for use in existing disease programs. USDA regulations at 9 CFR 71.1 state:

Official identification device or method. A means of officially identifying an animal or group of animals using devices or methods approved by the Administrator, including, but not limited to, official tags, tattoos, and registered brands when accompanied by a certificate of inspection from a recognized brand inspection authority (emphasis added).

Under USDA’s earlier proposed Animal Disease Traceability Framework (ADTF), breeding-aged cattle would bear an ear tag containing a number identifier (such as the low-cost metal “Brite” tag) as a condition for interstate transportation. This proposal would restore traceability to levels previously achieved when breeding females were ear tagged under the brucellosis program. Like the brucellosis tag, the new tag would augment other official devices such as brands or tattoos. This augmentation enhances traceability because while ear tags are prone to loss, brands remain permanent. Brands have facilitated disease investigations throughout history.

Under this breeding-age-cattle-only proposal, interstate transportation of branded feeder cattle accompanied with a certificate would continue as it has for decades. States that identify a disease suspect in branded feeder cattle, regardless of whether the states have their own brand programs, could continue to use the brand and certificates to contact the state where the certificates were issued to identify the herd of origin – just as they have for decades.

But, USDA has now changed its position and plans to delist the brand as an official animal identification device and include feeder cattle in the ADTF. This would discredit the hot-iron brand as a means of identifying cattle in interstate transportation. Here’s why:
1) The brand and accompanying certificates would forever be delisted as an official animal identification device.
2) USDA may well be precluded from requiring permanent brands on imported cattle after brands are delisted.
3) When the trigger for feeder cattle is reached, the brand and accompanying certificates will be delisted, so USDA would need to carve out a special brand exception to allow states to continue using brands to identify cattle, causing the brand to be relegated to a secondary position in relation to USDA’s ear tag.
4) No longer will the numerical ear tag be an augmentation to the more permanent brand, but instead, the ear tag will be deemed a substitute for brands, providing justification for brand opponents such as meat packers that believe hide values would increase, and tag companies that believe sale revenues would increase, without brands.
5) USDA’s act of delisting brands will send an erroneous signal to the industry that brands are of limited use for disease traceback and likely will trigger a de-emphasis for brand programs operating in many states.
6) USDA’s act of delisting brands would be the first step toward the eventual elimination of hot-iron branding in the United States.

Please Download R-CALF Application and send it in. http://www.texaslonghorn.com/emails/R-CALF_Membership_Application.pdf

Branding is still key form of identification

By Candace Krebs
Posted Jun 20, 2010 @ 09:55 AM
PUEBLO, Colo. —

Scenes of brandings are one of the most iconic and enduring images of the ranching lifestyle. For centuries, brands have played a vital role in conveying title of ownership. Officials say this ancient method of identification is still one of the best.

But questions are occasionally raised. How are hot iron brands perceived by consumers who have increasingly heightened concerns about animal welfare and how much does it cost the industry in terms of discarded hides?

The Colorado Cattlemen’s Association discussed the issue during a committee meeting at the 143rd convention this week, where animal welfare and animal health topics held key positions on the agenda.

Rick Wahlert, the Colorado brand commissioner, said he has fielded several calls on branding in the last few months. In addition, at least one of the big packers had issued a letter discouraging branding or at least urging cattlemen to leave the mid-section of the hide brand-free.
“I don’t know if it’s a push, but they’re looking at it again,” he told a meeting of the brand and theft committee.

Virginia Patton of Canon City, the CCA member who chaired the committee, said the association wanted to bring the issue to the attention to members and begin a discussion. “It’s not something we’re going to solve today,” she said.

The estimated value of an unbranded hide is believed to be roughly $5 a head. Gary Shoun, Colorado’s long-time former chief brand inspector, said packers launched a similar push for unbranded hides back in 1994 but premiums never materialized.

“I’ve heard that as long as I’ve been in the cattle business,” added John Stulp of Lamar, the current Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture.
Colorado is the only brand state that gives ranchers the freedom to place the brand wherever they want on the animal. Branding at the hip is typically recommended. Patton said on her ranch they moved the brand away from the middle of the hide but never recovered a premium for doing it.

Wahlert pointed out that a producer who left cattle unbranded and lost just two of them to theft would be out $1,000, and questioned whether even $5 a head was worth it.

“If you don’t brand, it sure makes it hard for us,” he said to producers.

The committee also raised the issue of animal welfare perceptions.

Wahlert said cattle have thick hides and few nerve endings, minimizing the pain involved. A suggestion was made to the committee to document those findings and put them into some kind of scientific paper. “It can’t hurt to get ahead of the horse,” Wahlert nodded in response, referring to potential complaints from animal welfare advocates.

Alternative forms of identification were also debated. Wahlert said there was nowhere to apply electronic chips where they weren’t at risk of migrating in the body. A bolus was a safer option, he added, but at a cost of $10 an animal was not financially feasible.

While freeze branding is becoming more popular, Commissioner Stulp and State Veterinarian Keith Roehr said it is more difficult to apply freeze brands successfully and they work better on horses than cattle.

Colorado State University animal handling expert Temple Grandin, a featured speaker at the convention and recipient of CCA’s Honorary Life Member award, said branding was a low priority when it came to animal welfare concerns, reeling off a laundry list of other items cattle producers need to work on first.

“Heat stress and fatalities in feedyards is higher on my list than branding,” she said in an interview. “Branding is a lot more defensible than whacking big horns off of adult cattle, or taking half of the ear off for identification purposes, or waddling them. Castration and dehorning are more on the radar than branding is.”

That’s consistent with the views of a group called the National Association of Farm Animal Care, which endorses branding as a searing process that never draws blood, is self-sealing and creates a permanent ID in seconds that requires no future use of medication.

No other form of animal identification has ever held up in court for a conviction of theft, the group added. Last year state brand inspection programs visually inspected and documented 27 million cattle.

To defend branding and other essential management practices, Grandin said ranchers need to do a better job of explaining what they do on the farm and why they do it. In promoting the recent movie about her life, which aired on HBO television, she found that the public is curious to learn about day-to-day farm life.

“It wasn’t negative,” she said of the countless questions she received in places like New York City. “That’s what was interesting. They’re just curious.”

She mentioned a YouTube clip in which a young boy narrates a tour of his family’s feedlot as an example of positive public relations for the cattle industry.

“This industry is very isolated from the public, and when we’re attacked, we get the siege mentality,” she said. “But we need to engage with the public, not PR people talking, but the regular ranchers.”

State Veterinarian Keith Roehr credits Colorado as one of the first states to adopt animal care standards. He said brands remain an important tool used in cultures all over the world and that Colorado would most likely remain a brand state for many years to come.

“As a bridge to a new animal disease traceability framework, the brand program is more important now that it’s ever been,” he said. “It positions us to do what needs to be done. Brand states like Colorado have been recognized as much more prepared to move into the future. The brand commission is not required to collect individual animal identification now, but they are aware that might happen in the future, and their role could become even more important.”

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