Good records and visible identification can ease the pain of a disaster

By: Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension animal acientist, and Gant Mourer, Oklahoma State University Beef Quality Enhancement specialist

Spring time is thunderstorm season across the Plains. Spring storms occasionally bring severe winds or even tornadoes. Windy spring days also can cause wildfires to move rapidly across range lands. Cleaning up after a severe storm or wildfire is difficult enough. Losing valuable cattle brings additional financial hardship to the situation.

Cattle loss can occur in several scenarios: Livestock may be killed, lost, or stolen during a stormy situation. Branding today is still the most recognized and accepted means of indicating ownership of cattle in North America. Eventually, other methods such as electronic”chipping” may become the standard for identification, but until this procedure becomes a more economical and practical alternative, producers will continue to utilize the time-tested, permanent, and universal method of branding.

State registration of your brand is not required by law in Oklahoma. However, recorded brands take precedence over similar unrecorded brands when questions of ownership arise. Registered brands are prima facie evidence of ownership in a court of law. Brands are recorded by The Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association (OCA). For more information contact OCA at 405-235-4391 or www.okcattlemen.org.

A brand is defined as a permanent mark not less than three inches in length or diameter and burned into the hide with a hot iron. “Freeze branding” is also a recognized form of legally identifying animal ownership in Oklahoma. Cattlemen can read more details about hot iron and freeze branding by downloading the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Fact Sheet ANSI-3255 Livestock Branding in Oklahoma. Producers should follow Beef Quality Assurance guidelines when choosing locations of hot iron brands.

An accurate accounting of livestock and property is essential to a cattle operation’s storm preparedness. Keep a CURRENT inventory of all animals and the pastures where they are located. Individual animal ID tags on all animals serve several purposes, but can become extremely valuable if cattle become scattered or even stolen. During the spring calving season, update these records frequently to reflect the newborn calves that are arriving.

If these records are computer based, consider having a back-up copy stored at a neighbor’s or a relative’s house. These can be emailed to a relative or trusted neighbor to insure that a digital copy is always available. Hand written records can be photocopied and placed in two different locations. We do not like to think about the unthinkable situation of a direct hit on our home or livestock buildings, but tornadoes and wildfires occasionally do destroy these dwellings. After the disaster is over, that second set of records could prove to be very inexpensive and very helpful.