After struggling with ineffective branding equipment for years, Reitz cattle farmer Cornelis Rautenbach decided to build his own branding ovens and specially-designed stainless steel branding irons. Now his equipment’s so popular Cornelis can’t keep up with the constant demand. He’s been branding cattle for 24 years and using his own equipment for the past 10.
His gas ovens – which can fit from four to 12 irons at a time – can be used anywhere and farmers no longer need to assign someone’s full attention to tending the fire. Linked to a gas bottle, the oven works exactly like conventional gas stoves. The irons are placed directly into the flame in special slots, which help keep the flames concentrated on the top of the iron, almost regardless of windy conditions. Assembling and starting up the oven is surprisingly quick, like starting up a gas braai.
Cornelis has also designed his own unique branding irons. He tried to eliminate the possibility of “staining” the cattle. With conventional irons certain letters, such as A, W, M and B, have two or more linked steel bars. Where these bars come into contact with each other the animals skin is scorched, creating an illegible, untidy brand. To overcome this problem Cornelis made his branding irons more rounded. With letters such as B he also left a little space, to ensure that the bars aren’t linked.
His branding irons proved to be very popular at Nampo recently. “People were especially interested in the letters that brand easily,” Cornelis says. He sold more of these than of any other irons, and says it proves there’s a demand for this product. The thickness of the metal is also very important to him. If thicker than 8mm, cattle will be over-branded. Smaller than 5mm and farmers will burn through the animals’ skin, “especially with calves and milk cattle, which have thinner skin”, says Cornelis. He warns that the iron should only be in contact with the skin for about three to four seconds, a bit longer if the animal has longer hair.
Cornelis uses higher-grade stainless steel for the irons to ensure longevity. In his opinion stainless steel is also more hygienic. “Other irons may rust,” he warns.“If people don’t use the right iron in these ovens, it will melt.” He also explains that his irons’ handles don’t become as hot, since the heat is concentrated at the front, and can be much shorter than conventional irons, giving the farmer better control. – Susan Botes
Cornelis Rautenbach is the winner of this year’s Tuli Farmer’s Weekly/ARC Elite Cow award.
Contact Auriel Mitchley on (011) 889 0796
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