Friday, June 3, 2011

Branding Day

Yesterday (last Thursday now, it's been a very busy week) was branding day at our place. This year the big challenge was dodging rain storms, which no one was complaining about.

We brand because it is the only way to permanently identify livestock. We want them permanently identified so we can determine ownership, and for health reasons. It's hard to know if an unbranded (also called slick) animal has ever had any shots, been treated for any health related problem, has been exposed to a disease or health issue, or if it is stolen.

We started with gathering a pasture that is about one mile long and two miles wide. We started early, and used a combination of horses and 4-wheelers. I was on a 4-wheeler because my horse was lame.

As we gathered the cattle into larger groups, we aimed them toward the corral.

The corral is just over the farthest hill in this picture. We go at a pace that allows the cows to keep track of their calves, which makes it easier for us to move and corral them.

Due to technical difficulties, and a lack of time to work around them, please imagine another picture, of a larger bunch of cattle headed up a hill here, as the photo won't upload. Thanks!

We go over the hill and down into our new corrals. That is my uncle and cousin, guarding the most common escape route.

After gathering, we put a smaller bunch in our newly completed alleyway, and sort the cows off the calves. This makes working the calves easier and more efficient, and gets the cows out of the way. My brother was careful to not let a calf out his gate, as it lead back out to the same pasture we gathered earlier.

The calves were put in another alleyway until they were branded.

My uncle would bring the calves to the chute, down this single-file alley

The setup looked like this. Some people rope and drag each calf, then two people wrestle it to the ground and it's branded, vaccinated and castrated, then let up. We use the other method-a calf table. This is a miniature chute, that tips onto it's side and has bars you can open and close as you brand, vaccinate and castrate.

We choose to use a chute because it's easier on the calves and us, as they aren't being drug and wrestled around, and we are doing the wrestling. It's also faster for us, takes a much smaller crew, and with our small crew everything is done right.

I am not a fan of rope and drag brandings at all, due to the numerous bad experiences I've had with them. But, there are lots of people who do brand that way with no problems - those just weren't the ones I attended. This is another example of how different operations do the same job successfully in different ways. It just depends on what works best in a given situation.

Here a calf has just been caught, and is being tipped up.

Once it's fully tipped over on it's side, my aunt will give the calf an ear tag, my brother will brand it, and my dad will hold the calf still with a bar. The bar keeps the calf still when all the bars are opened, and makes for a much nicer brand. My cousin will catch and hold a back leg if it's a bull calf, and I will castrate it. My sister gives it a shot to prevent it from being infected with common diseases in our area. This all happens simultaneously, and takes under a minute from the time the calf enters the chute to him leaving, if all goes well.

Just another angle.

When everything is completed, the table is tipped back over and the calf is released.

After everyone is done, the calves are reunited with their mothers, and given a couple days to recover before we start sorting pairs to send to summer pasture.

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