Farmer opts for frozen tagging to identify livestock – Kenya News Agency
Living on the edge of the Rift Valley breakaways, Fred Kinyua Ndoro’s farm has been a magnet for cattle rustlers and rustlers for decades.
His efforts to brand his cattle with hot irons and tagging did little to deter thieves, the marks fading as the cattle matured.
We visit his Ndoro farm bordering Nakuru and Nyandarua counties in Igwamiti Ward, Laikipia County to find him preparing his heifers for branding.
This time not with the frightening hot iron which he says left his cattle scared and with wounds which would take time to heal and expose them to bacterial infection.
“I’ve embraced frozen branding as a way to give my livestock an identity in a humane way.
“It was difficult for me and my neighbors to describe or identify our animals after they were stolen, and that meant we lost our livelihoods as some of us couldn’t afford to replace the animals. animals,” says Ndoro.
He prepares his cattle by clipping the hair on the black or brown surfaces as the branding leaves white marks on the cattle.
He mixes dry ice with rubbing alcohol to increase its surface area and volume to easily freeze the copper rods printed with the desired letters.
“It takes about 10 minutes to freeze the metal, after which marking a single animal takes an average of three to five minutes. It takes an average of 30 seconds for each letter to imprint itself on the skin of cattle,” explains the self-taught Kinyua, who discovered the method while researching dairy farming in Europe and America on the Internet.
With his bare hands, Kinyua removes the cooled copper letters, attached to a brass handle to comfortably mark his cattle, while they feed.
“This technique freezes the animal’s hair follicles, causing highly visible white hairs to grow over the marked area.
“Dry ice or liquefied carbon dioxide marks cannot be removed from the animal while it lives; leaving a bright white mark on the dark surface which enlarges with maturity.
“The method is a more humane option and has become the preferred method for property markings,” says Kinyua.
The farmer, who also practices large-scale farming and fruit farming, says hot-branding livestock has caused psychological trauma to the animal, thus affecting its ability to feed itself, further compromising its production of milk, while the animal nursed the wounds.
He prefers to mark heifers because the marked area has become more visible with maturity, while they have also suffered less trauma than milking stage cows.
“Freeze branding is relatively painless and a very effective form of permanent animal and herd identification.
“While hot iron branding is used to create a clean, legible scar on the surface of the skin, gel branding converts hair pigmentation to white legibly, without disfiguring the skin,” Kinyua notes, noting that the skin lost its value with branding, the procedure being repeated every year.
The major challenge with this tagging method, he cites, is getting the dry ice because the producers are concentrated in Nairobi.
He therefore urges dry ice makers to decentralize their dry ice making facilities since the use of dry ice is gaining popularity day by day.
He says he has had no cases of cattle rustling since he adopted freeze tagging.
“The legal deterrent that if you get caught with a stolen animal and you’re convicted, you’ll serve a prison sentence of more than seven years, has also served to keep thieves at bay,” noting that the method is unique and saved him the effort to mark annually.
While opening its doors to farmers who would like to learn and adopt the method, Kinyua, who has devoted all of his time to dairy farming, notes that the high cost of ice cream could be easily offset if more farmers joined.
“I urge my fellow farmers to learn more about frozen branding and embrace it as it is more humane and is only done once in an animal’s lifetime, unlike hot branding.
“I’m ready to teach other farmers how freeze branding is done and the more we become, the more affordable ice cream will become.”
Carbacid CO2 Limited’s sales manager and engineer Chris Gitau says the company mined and manufactured carbon dioxide (CO2) which they liquefy to produce dry ice which is in a solid state.
“I am here to support Mr Ndoro who has been a customer of our ice cream and we want to see how he uses dry ice to freeze the markings of his animals.
“We are interested in developing other uses for dry ice since we have seen it used by artificial inseminators to conserve sperm, instead of nitrogen,” Gitau said.
The biggest challenge with solid dry ice, he says, is storage because it changes from dry ice to gas at -79 degrees Celsius, without turning into a liquid. This means that storage can only be done in special polystyrene boxes.
By Anthony Mwangi