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How does an Indiana farmer catch a rustler? Freeze branding could help
Indiana Correspondent

ARGOS, Ind. — If anyone asks Hal Sullivan how to catch a rustler, he would have to say he does not know.

He’s installed expensive monitoring devices and can track activity in his feedlot via iPhone. He has locks and tight fences. So far, the rustler – or rustlers, judging by multiple tracks – has circumvented everything he’s tried.

All of his cattle have ear tags but, as he learned, those can be cut off. “I wish we could brand our cattle,” he said. “West of the Mississippi, that’s the way they do it. Here in Indiana, we’re docked on our hides because of the brand.

“Out there, all brands are registered. If a load of cattle comes to a sale barn and three of the animals have my brand, I’ll get a check regardless of who claims the rest of the cattle.”

He has designed a brand that incorporates the first initial of each family member. “We may try freeze branding,” he said. “That’s the only method accepted here.”

David Patterson of the University of Missouri’s Division of Animal Sciences describes freeze branding by saying that when super-cold or chilled, branding irons are applied to the hide of an animal and the pigment-producing cells are destroyed or altered. When the hair grows back, it is white.

He cautions the method is not foolproof, and says those using it should be aware the results may be variable. Freeze brands are more legible throughout most of the year than a hot-iron brand and cause less damage to the hide than a hot brand. At this point, the Sullivans are willing to try anything.