The value of records as an aid to farm management is now generally accepted and in the case of the dairy farmer the importance of a simple and effective system of identification cannot be overstressed.
One of the latest methods in this particular field is freeze-branding which has only in recent months been introduced to Northern Ireland.
Mayday Agricultural Services, pioneers in the introduction of this new technique, have already “marked” around 3,500 animals on something like 100 farms here.
Last November Ulster agents Mr Jim Richmond, of Newtownbutler, and Mr John Black, Coleraine, carried out the freeze-branding of 57 Friesian dairy cows and their replacements on the farm of Mr Alex Boyd at Crevillyvalley, Shanksbridge, near Ballymena.
The merits of the system were completely endorsed by Mr Boyd with the comment – “Accurate and decisive identification of dairy stock has ceased to be a problem on the farm since introducing freeze-branding. There may initially be a certain amount of prejudice against changing to a new system but I am convinced that results will speak for themselves.”
Mr Boyd added that there had been no after-affects with the freeze-branding method. “Milk yields were not interrupted by the branding process,” he said.
The freeze-branding technique was first developed in America and it involves the application of a chilled branding iron to the animal’s hide.
This destroys the pigment producing cells of both hair and skin, and results in white hair and white skin. Where white animals are to be branded, the branding iron is applied for a longer period, resulting in a “bald” area.
Mr Richmond pointed out that the freeze-branding method had numerous advantages over the more conventional marking techniques such as clipping and the use of ear tags, and ankle and neck straps.
“Perhaps the biggest asset of the freeze-branding method is that it is permanent and the brand need never be renewed,” he said. “With the clipping method for example, the mark has to be continually and periodically repeated.
Mr Richmond also pointed out that freeze-branding was a painless operation. “Of course, nervous cows may show some reaction during the actual branding but this is only to be expected as the liquid coming in contact with the skin is between minus 50 and minus 70 degrees Fahrenheit.”
The cost of freeze-branding, he said, was five shillings per animal compared with the cost of neck bands, for example, at around 12s 6d.
“The freeze-branding service is guaranteed,” he said, “and animals which do not “take” are re-branded free of charge”.