I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Branding is the most wonderful time of the year. I know I say that about Fall Shots/Shipping season too, but there’s just something that’s extra special about branding season. And you know what makes it even more fun- the fact that I got to snap some photographs at the neighbor’s place on Saturday!
I’m gonna show you a few of my favorite photos and explain to you what’s going on at each stage.
The calves get corralled together, after we sort out their mamas:
Horses not being used, get to graze in an unused holding pen:
Mamas wait and call for their babies:
The calves just “hang” out:
Little cowboys get ready to rope!
Our first intern of the year, got to do some flanking and held the calf while he was quickly doctored and branded:
Calves are roped by the heels:
Then, to save work for your ground crew, we use calf-catchers, or Nord Forks. They hold the calf at the shoulders, while the roper holds the heels.
And then to get the calf down so the ground crew can work on them, someone will grab the tail, and another the rope and leverage becomes our friend:
Once they are down, all calves get branded for identification purposes, the bull calves are banded, so they will become steers, fly tags are put in their ears and they are given shots to protect them from disease, similar to you giving your horse spring/fall shots. They are also poured with a delouser, given an anti-parasitic (de-wormer) injection, and the steers are given a tetanus shot to protect them from getting infected due to the banding.
Isn’t this a pretty picture? It’s straight out of the camera too, in case anyone is wondering!
A vaccine gun:
Each Vaccine gets a different colored cattle chalk so that as each vaccine is given, the crew can determine what else is needed:
This is a heifer that is finished being worked on. If she’d been a steer, you’d have seen a green mark on her too- the green was for the Tetanus shot. If you’re wondering if it’s scientific what color goes with what shot, it’s not. We all just grab a chalk and when the vaccine we’re giving is injected, we mark the calf, and after about 10 calves, everyone figures out what is what.
Here’s a very handsome cowboy holding a fly tagger:
When we’re done working on each calf, they are let go, and they all get up and run off, back to mama!
Branding is very much a sort of “organized” chaos if you will. In a matter of less than 3 minutes, each calf can be branded, doctored, and ready to go for the summer:
The goal, is to keep your calves as stress-free as possible, because calves that are happy will gain weight faster than those that are stressed out. And bigger calves mean a bigger payday for a rancher at the end of the year!
At times there might be more than one calf being drug out of the pen at once:
The horses stand quietly while the ground crew does their work:
And because it just wouldn’t be one of my photography session without something artistic, here’s Gump:
I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into our lives on the ranch!