Hot Branding vs. Freeze Branding

You’ve probably done your research whether to brand your cattle or not, and you’re here in this article because you’ve decided to give it a go. Now, the next pressing matter that’s probably in your head right now is what branding process is better: freeze branding or hot branding? Let’s weigh in the pros and cons of each.


Hot Branding


Hot branding, hot-iron branding, or fire branding signifies the traditional way of pressing a hot iron to your cattle. This removes the hair and leaves a burn scar on the hide.



  • It’s easier, faster, and simpler than other branding processes.

  • You just need a set of irons during application



  • Some studies show that it can be painful for animals, resulting to higher level of stress during branding

  • The branded hide (and meat if the branding wasn’t done correctly) will be cut away during slaughter. Lesser usable hide/meat means lesser profit.



Freeze Branding


Started during 1966 in Sweden, it became a well-liked process of marking animals for identification because it’s less harsh than the traditional way. Instead of using fire and heat to mark the skin, branding irons are chilled with liquid nitrogen or a combination of alcohol and dry ice. Freeze branding targets the animal’s hair follicle to remove its hair color (pigmentation) or remove the hair completely (depending on your cattle’s color)



  • Animals react less to cooler temperatures so it’s generally less painful/stressful for them.

  • Immediately effective. The result can be visible minutes after the branding



  • It is a specialized process. A professionally-trained rancher is recommended to do the branding as it involves preparing and handling chemicals (liquid nitrogen, dry ice, and alcohol).

  • More expensive. Aside from the necessary coolant, you should also prepare branding irons that are made of copper alloy, safety gloves, and time tracking device. You’ll also need special containers that will hold your liquid coolant and irons.


Branding is a good way to show proof of ownership. Even though it signifies tradition (or sense of pride to some), it always pays to be extra careful when doing either hot or freeze branding.


What branding process do you use on your ranch?