One of the oldest methods of identifying cattle may prove to be a valuable tool against rustling. Branding is one of the best ways to permanently identify animals, some cattlemen claim.
Cullman County Farmers Federation Board Member Darrel Haynes has branded cattle on his family farm for nearly 40 years. In the late ‘70s, Haynes’ brother-in-law designed and registered the brand that became the trademark of Haynes Farms. However, Haynes described the scripted H connected to the scripted F as more than just a mark.
“Branding is an art that takes practice to make perfect,” Haynes said. “We live in an area where there are small pastures everywhere. I have several neighbors with cows and, inevitably, some will get out. Because brands are permanent, they have proven the easiest way to keep track of animals in areas surrounded by other livestock.”
While brands are applied in various locations on the cow, most are branded on the hip. Hot iron brands are popular, but freeze branding is common among some farmers.
In addition to hot iron branding, Haynes also uses ear tags are a part of his management scheme. However, he considers branding a sign of superiority.
“We sell replacement heifers, and our brand is a mark of quality,” Haynes said. “Our brand is not only a marketing tool, but a pledge we are providing a high-quality animal for purchase.”
Branding and tagging works well for Haynes, but Alabama Farmers Federation Beef Division Director Nate Jaeger said cattlemen across the state should take additional precautions when maintaining herd records.
“Brands have been the best form of permanent cattle identification for more than a hundred years,” Jaeger said. “However, when it comes to rustling, a brand is only as good as the ability of the cattle owner to enforce its authenticity.”
Locked gates are another safeguard used around Cullman County cattle farms, said Haynes, who hasen’t had any cattle stolen. Haynes hasn’t had cattle stolen. But branding could be a reason, he said.
Haynes credits diligent stockyard workers for calling when cattle carrying his brand are sold at public auction, just to make sure he has no missing cattle. Typically, he said, it’s cattle his farm sold to another farmer.