As the state bids farewell to one of the snowiest winters on record, the temperatures warm and the grass turns green, most North Dakota livestock producers are extra eager to turn their animals out to pasture this year. For many cattle producers, preparation for turnout includes branding to ensure that animals are properly identified for ownership.
While many may already have a recorded brand and are all set, plenty of others will be seeking to record a new brand before their cattle head to pasture. “Recorded brands provide producers with title to their livestock and help guard against loss and theft,” explained Corby Ward, the chief brand inspector for the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association (NDSA), which administers the state’s brand programs. “We make sure that brands are unique, so ownership is crystal clear and producers are protected.”
“With more than 22,000 brands already recorded in the state, that can be a process,” said NDSA Brand Recorder Joan Zimmerman. “It’s our job to make sure that each brand is one of a kind, meets the requirements spelled out in state law and is readable when affixed to the hide of an animal.”
“We know it can be frustrating when a brand application is returned and all the choices are rejected,” Zimmerman continued. “We want to help producers find a good brand quickly, and there are a few things to keep in mind that might help expedite the process.”
The first thing to remember is that brands can be comprised of letters, symbols, numbers or a combination, so that gives people many different options, Zimmerman said. There are exceptions, though. “By law, the NDSA cannot newly record Gs, Qs, the numbers 0 or 1, or entirely upright numbers on the hips of cattle,” she said. “Additionally, we cannot record symbols inside other symbols, and applications with those requests will be denied.” Available symbols include arrows, boxes, slashes, bars, diamonds, quarter circles, rafters, mill irons, hearts, triangles, stars and crosses.
When choosing the characters to include in a brand, Zimmerman reminded producers to consider potential conflicts. “Sometimes, brands can conflict with other brands even when they are not identical,” she explained. “For example, an L can look like a 7 or an S can look like a 5. It’s one thing to draw the brand with a pencil on a piece a paper; it’s another when that brand is applied with an iron to the hide of an animal.”
For the same reason, Ward also advised producers to avoid brands with many complex or intersecting lines or sharp corners. “These brands are more prone to blotching and can end up undecipherable or confused with something else,” he added.
Brands can be configured in many ways – straight away, diagonal, stacked or connected. “If, for example, you want your initials diagonal from left to right and that is already taken, check if it is available in another direction,” Zimmerman offered. “For diagonal brands, the lower-left-to-upper-right option is used far less frequently than the other way around.”
Ward also reminded producers to consider the various character orientations that can be used. “Besides regular, upright characters, brands can also be comprised of lazy, reversed or inverted characters,” he said. “Those alternate orientations give you more options for differentiation and, potentially, brand application success.”
Brands in North Dakota must be comprised of at least two characters, but can include more. “Brands with more characters may be less likely to conflict with other brands,” Zimmerman said.
She and Ward encouraged producers to plan ahead when they are seeking to record a brand. “Don’t wait until the week you want to turn out to grass,” Ward advised. “The process typically takes about two weeks, but certainly can take longer, especially during busy seasons and if the choices listed on the brand application are not available.”
An online brand book and downloadable brand applications can be found at www.ndstockmen.org/brand-