Egyptian pulling oxen, cattle Columbus brought to North America on 17 ships and millions of Texas Longhorns lumbering up the long northward trails all had fire brands. For thousands of years a fire brand proved ownership, prevented cattle rustling and kept honest cattle raisers honest. It was readable horseback from a hundred feet away without a EID/RFID reader or confining the critter in a squeeze and carefully hunting a tiny faded tattoo. Fire brands are so simple and practical it just scares technology minded people to death that it works so good and is so economical. A critter can be stolen and months later the brands still show on the raw hides proving the trail of a disappearing animal. This is totally unlike an ear tag or EID tag that can be easily removed and even placed in another critter.
Millions of home made branding irons have been heated on an open wood fire ready for a perfect brand even in remote places far away from propane or electric. It takes a few minutes to gather wood, get some good red hot coals and soon the smell of sizzling hides and a permanent brand is in place, never to go away. With millions of branding fires, cattle, horses, and cowboys have run over, stumbled across, and fell into wood fires, seldom with serious harm. The job gets done at a low cost. At a branding, things can get a little western.
Some one invented propane iron heaters. One like this can go anywhere a propane bottle can go. It will hold enough irons, all at the same time, to heat all the numbers, and a holding brand. Thousands of these have been designed up on tall legs so a cowboy doesn't have to bend over to fetch a hot iron.
This home made propane iron heater has a dozen barn yard pieces of scrap metal all designed to heat several irons. The little strap to hold up the propane torch line is clever/odd. This will do the job, but the first time a panicking calf runs through the torch line, jerks it off and fire shoots 50' across the corral, not only can several get burned, it may burn all the nearby barns down, the hay stack -- and the ranch house.
At Dickinson Cattle Co this is the propane iron heater designed with the propane line laying flat on the ground. Although there is some danger, it is only a small fraction of the risk of the torch line 2 feet in the air. Irons heat better on the ground as the air flow doesn't suck away as much heat.
The DCC heater lays at an angle so iron handles are up within easy reach of a fast moving crew. This heater will heat a dozen irons at a time. Sometimes several owner's cattle are being branded and a number of holding brands need to be hot all the time.
If an electric cord will reach the squeeze chute electric irons work well. They are more expensive yet normally create a clean brand, however, may require several irons and extension cords to make all the numbers.
A clean clear hot iron brand is a work of art, yet blotched-up smudged brands are an embarrassment on lots of cattle. Readable hot iron brands remain the most perfect prevention of theft ever invented.
It is up to everyone, make a choice. 1) The wood fire is cheapest and and will heat as many irons as ever needed. 2) Propane is the fastest and most convenient. (The higher the torch line is dangling the more dangerous it is). 3) Electric will make the clearest brands, if handled properly, and can be very safe if no one lays it in on a bale of hay or drops it in a water trough.
The government promotes a tiny button pin in the ear read by a computer system. People who are serious about permanent ID use fire brands -- cattle rustlers all agree, everyone should use the government ear pins. Your choice. - by Darol Dickinson