There were only a few clouds standing out against the bright blue spring sky; the wind was blowing steadily as a welcome relief to the hot, relentless sun; it was a perfect day for branding cattle.
Now, that’s my opinion as a bystander. I’m sure the workers in full-length clothing beg to differ.
It was my first time joining my husband and his family to brand our cattle. A few weeks prior, the heifers’ calves were branded and immediately followed by a nut fry. Although not wanting to miss out on some fresh Rocky Mountain Oysters, I was already committed to work at the steak house. Dang.
This cattle branding was the big one – some 500 calves were ready to bear the CC- brand.
The day of, I was able to squeeze a few hours of work in while a crew of family, friends, dogs and horses worked the cattle moving them to the branding pasture and separating the calves from the cows. At this point, each calf had a colored ear tag that signifies ownership and a number that links it to a cow and shows the year it was born.
I was able to hitch a ride with my husband’s aunt, who was in charge of the big dinner* we were serving the herds of hungry men, boys and some seriously talented women. No stranger to the hunger that accompanies a branding, we loaded her pickup with roasters full of baked steak, mashed potatoes, creamed corn, and a big ole container of lemonade, and we were off.
(*Remember that here, Dinner = Lunch)
Winding our way up, down, and through the pasture to the corrals, we caught up with, then followed, those on horseback directing cattle through the gates.
Upon arrival, I quickly learned that branding day is about more than just the burning that big CC- brand into the side of the calves (a process I still wasn’t sure about up until this point…). The cows are guided through corrals where they received treatments and shots to ensure their continued health.
After the cows were taken care of, it was time to chow down. And no, the irony of serving steak at a cattle branding did not pass by me 🙂
Branding took place in teams: ropers, holders, branders, medicators, castrators, and kids to carry those little testes away.
Ropers on horseback roped a calf, dragging it out of the corral to the branding area.
Holders, one at the head and one at the rear, held the calf down on its side.
Branders made trips between the heaters holding hot branding irons to each calf.
Medicators gave the necessary rounds of shots to each calf, and also sprayed the incision that is part of the next process…
Castrators were tasked with emasculating the male calves, and handing the set of balls over to the kids who carried them to an ice bucket, that ironically was purple and featured a princess on the front of it.
Then there were obviously the bystanders (me) watching this process for two or more hours. I busied myself with taking photos, running waters (beer) around, and making sure the kiddos had a good view to watch the process.
The calves were later turned back to pasture. Acting like nothing had changed, but now sporting their fancy cattle brand signifying that they were officially part of the herd.
It was a full, sunny, hot, busy day. Enjoying a margarita was the perfect way to take it all in.