Branding practices on four dairies in Kantale, Sri Lanka

Sarah J.J. Adcock, Cassandra B. Tucker, Gayani Weerasinghe, Eranda Rajapaksha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Hot-iron branding is illegal in Sri Lanka, but is still commonly used to identify dairy herds in extensive farming systems, which are primarily located in the country’s Dry Zone. Despite the negative welfare implications of this practice, there is no written documentation of branding in this region. We observed branding on four smallholder farms in Kantale, Eastern Province to understand the welfare implications associated with the procedure and challenges limiting the uptake of more welfare-friendly alternatives, such as ear tagging. Areas of welfare concern included the duration of restraint, the size and location of the brand, and the absence of pain relief. Animals were restrained with rope for an average duration of 12 min (range 8–17 min). Farmers used multiple running irons to mark their initials and, in some cases, their address, with the largest brands extending across the ribs and hip. Three farmers applied coconut or neem oil topically to the brand after performing the procedure. No analgesics were given before or after branding. Farmers reported that poor ear tag retention in extensive systems and theft were the main factors impeding the uptake of alternative forms of identification. Branding is also practiced as part of traditional medicine in some cases. Given the clear evidence that hot-iron branding impairs animal welfare and there is no evidence that this can be improved, alternative identification methods are needed, both in Sri Lanka, as well as in other countries engaging in this practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number137
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Animal welfare
  • Cattle
  • Ear tags
  • Hot-iron branding
  • Smallholders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • veterinary(all)


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