Here are a few of the photos I particularly like from the first branding while I was home. More will be added in due time.This little gem would be mine. All my cows sport a beautiful pink ear tag (I am working on an ear tag blog-in my head-that will be on here sometime in the future) that can be easily distinguished at long distances against my mostly black cows. My dad picked this color for me because it's very different from his green.
Why do we brand cattle? To determine ownership, prevent theft and protect both the animal and the owner. Brands are the best and only permanent form of owner identification in place. Producers have no way of knowing who an unbranded animal belongs to, what health program its been on, where it came from or what its been exposed to. If an animal that doesn't belong shows up and is sporting a brand and you know who that brand belongs to, you are likely to know additional, helpful information regarding that animal. It will also make it much easier to return that person's property.
Yes it does cause the animal discomfort, but it is not an excruciating, unbearable pain. Cattle have much thicker hides than humans and brands are applied in a way that only burns the top layers of the hide. I would compare it to getting a tattoo or the burns some people get. It heals fast and has no negative long-term effects if done properly.
In Wyoming a brand includes the shape or design of the brand (some names can be quite difficult to interpret into the proper symbol or shape), the location on cattle, sheep and/or horses and an earmark if there is one. For example, my dad's brand is the TH and is located on the right rib on cattle. It is not a sheep brand and I don't know if it is registered for horses. His also includes an earmark, which is a little notch out of the tip of each ear. In the above photo my brother is applying his brand ( The lazy E cross) to the rib of a calf. He uses his fingers to mark where the ribs end to ensure it is placed properly.
Earmarks are simply another way of identifying an individual in addition to a brand.
Calves are separated from their mothers prior to starting the branding and re-joined with them as soon as everyone has been branded. This makes everything run smoother and is simply more efficient. My uncle would call this guy a "nice baby."
We use horses and my uncle's family brings their motorized vehicles to help gather. The calves in the background are done. They are allowed into a grass lot so they don't have to be bunched up in a dirt corral.
We use what is called a calf table. Don't worry, I'm sure there will be a step-by-step blog explaining everything we do while branding and the reasons behind choosing to use a calf table. Some walk out of the table, most jog or run, and a few take into account I am waiting with my camera expectantly and give me a great show of athleticism. (You can also see the earmark on this one)
There is smoke. This is my dad, who refers to himself as the "certified" bar holder. More on that in the explanation blog.
"Oh, is that you dear?"
Here she comes. Just like people, cattle have different attitudes. This one just has a lot of attitude.