A former New Mexico state brands supervisor has developed software to instantly match hot-iron brands with cattle owners and ranch locations. The Nickel Brand software, expected to be commercially available this fall, allows a user to find the owner of a brand by sketching the brand on the screen of a computer palm pad with an electronic stylus or by scanning the brand with a hand scanner.

Loretta Martinez, founder of Moriarty-based Nickel Brand Software, says matching brands with ranches can be tricky. Just in New Mexico, there are almost 29,000 brands representing thousands of working ranches, each of which may use several brands. Martinez isn't hoping to change traditional hot-iron branding of cattle, just the recording and accessing of brands when that information is needed.