Monday, July 8, 2013

Branding Time

My dad, uncle, brother, and husband preparing the calf table and chute.
My vaccine guns in the front, my uncle applying the second brand.
I think that when most folks think of cowboys, they think of horses, boots, spurs, ropes, calves and branding irons.  Historically cowboys used to rope a calf by the hind leg, drag it to the branding area, and then two people held it down while others did the branding and castrating.  My family uses a calf table, which allows us to do our job with fewer people and finish each calf more quickly.

Branding, vaccinating and castrating is a big job, and it probably seems terribly cruel to most.  However, ranchers don't just do it for fun.

Selling calves is where ranchers make their money, and calves can't be sold if ownership cannot be established.  Hence, the brand.  Good brands are hard to alter and are clearly readable from a distance.

Compare the brand to a tattoo, which I understand can be a terribly drawn out and painful affair.  The brand takes only seconds, and the calf's skin is far thicker than our own.

An animal rights activist once asked one of my dad's friends why ranchers castrate the poor little calves.  He could have said that it keeps fighting between males down or that it increases the quality of the meat.  Instead, he said, "It's to keep those little bastards from committing incest with their mothers and sisters."

'Nuff said.

Leg being drawn back to castrate.

Finished brand, read aloud as "Lazy F L Bar."

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