Youth will design their own unique herd brand.
After completing this activity, youth will know a basic history of brands and their purpose, create their own unique brand, and cement their understanding of why animals need to be identified.
- Cardboard (from home)
- Rubber Bands
- Scissors (from home)
- Glue Sticks
Different Species of Animals use different forms of identification just like we have school id cards or driver’s licenses to show other people who we are. In the Animal Identification Matching Activity we looked at the many different ways animals are identified by their owners but those means of identification have changed over time.
For many years before we had microchips, before we had phones, before we had cars, before we had highways, many parts of the country did not have fences. That meant that animals, like cows, could roam and graze wherever they wanted. It was up to cowboys to go find the cows that belonged to their ranch and gather them up. Brands on the animals helped identify who a cow belonged to so that people didn’t accidentally take someone else’s animal. When people stole cattle, law enforcement would look at the brands on the cows to prove who an animal belonged to. This wasn’t just limited to the American old west. We know that people branded animals as in Ancient Egypt as long ago as 2700 BC.
What is branding? A hot iron applied to the skin creates a permanent mark quickly on the skin of an animal. Branding is still the #1 method of identification because it is permanent, cattle cannot lose it like they could possibly lose a tag.
Animals still go missing today and it is important to prove who the animal belongs to so it can go home. If a fence breaks and a cow gets out into the road someone has to call the rancher to make sure they save the cow from getting hit by a car! A brand, or other form of identification, helps people do that. Here in Washington there are people who track registered brands and can look up who an animal belongs to based on the brand. If a cow gets stolen then that person can help read the brand. Cows are also mischievous and can get out of fields and get lost.
What makes a good brand?
Brands are made of simple letters, numbers, characters, and symbols. Like an emoji or character that you might text. <3 🙂 Letters can be sideways, or upside down.
Your brand represents the name of your family, or ranch. It can share something that is important to you or that you care about. Brands can be funny or you can take a letter, such as maybe the first letter of your first name, and use that in your brand in different ways.
For more information and examples of brands, view our animal science activity guide, found here: https://extension.wsu.edu/skamania/youth/for-youth/grab-go-kits/
Look at the samples of brands and choose a design to represent your herd (your family or maybe any animals you are raising). You can combine designs or include other symbols not seen. Key Advice: try to use as little detail as possible.
- Draw a sample of your brand onto the cardboard.
- When you like your finished design, Rub glue all over the drawing
- Cut your rubber bands and place them on the outline of your drawing. You can use short and long pieces of rubber bands to complete your brand.
- Let dry.
- Stamp! Put your brand here.
It is also important to get your brand approved by local authorities. Watch for a fun challenge to “approve” your brand with the Clark, Skamania, and Klickitat 4-H Office!
Reflect & Apply Questions
What symbols can you identify around you?
How do you label things that belong to you or your family?
If your animal gets lost how do people know to contact you?
This is a great project for an educational display that could be entered as part of animal science or veterinary science, submitted as a poster, or as a presentation. All items entered should include 3×5″ card explaining exhibit: what item is/its use, what was done/learned, publication title/page# where goals listed for the project if applicable.