Branding can be a touchy subject when we talk with some people outside the ranching world. It can seem like a harsh or cruel thing to do. So why do we still brand?
The best answer is because it is required by law. A brand is a rancher's signature, saying which ranch these cattle belong to. Its nice to know which ranch to call when the cows get out, but its more important to know when its time for those cattle to be harvested.
If a cow were to go in without a brand, there is no way to know who that cow belonged to, where it was, what other animals it was running with, and what region it was in. Its important to know this because we want to be VERY sure that there is nothing wrong with the meat. We don't want to spread disease or sell contaminated beef. Ya, that's a good reason to brand...
When cattle are sold, cross state lines, or head to be harvested they must be checked over by a brand inspector. This makes a record or a paper trail of where and when the cattle come and go.
But even if we didn't HAVE to brand, we still would. I don't know that there is any method out there that is as effective and efficient at marking our cattle as our own. Yes, it is stressful for the calves. It is probably painful and I really feel bad about that. But until someone finds a method of marking that can't be altered, we gotta stick to branding. Did you know that cattle rustling is still prevalent today? (and in the state of Idaho it is still punishable by hanging!). Too many of the ways to mark cattle can be changed and someone else can claim them.
So we brand our calves. We do it so we can track our cattle so we can put out the best product possible!