I attended my very first branding this last weekend. (It was also a chance to spend some time with my “new” family.) What a weekend!
I had no idea that a branding was such a social event for the entire neighbourhood and all the relatives! There had to have been 70 people at my brother’s branding! Lorna must have been cooking for three days! These are my thoughts on the branding itself.
I was amazed at how organized they are! It’s obvious that they’ve all done this often, and together. They’re a well-oiled machine! First, they separate all the calves from all the cows. (Unfortunately, that was done before we got there, so I can’t tell you how well the horses did at that part.) We (the royal “we” *grin*) were “only” doing 250 calves. Would be done in 2-3 hours. (*eyes get big* Really?) Once the horses are tacked up and the irons are hot (heated by propane, not open fire like in the old days), they go into action.
Riders (there are 4 of them working at the same time) go into the pen of calves and rope them by the hind feet. One foot or two, either way … just make sure the rope is low, around the pastern (is it called a pastern on a cow?) so as not to gall the legs. Then they pull the calf out of the pen, while guys on foot keep the rest of the calves from escaping.
Once out of the pen, the calf is flipped on his back by one of the two calf wrestlers (two wrestlers per calf) and dragged to the “fire”. There one wrestler gets his leg over the calf’s neck and the other wrestler gets the hind feet. Out comes the needle-bearer with a shot of 8-way. Stabs the vaccine in and puts a blue stripe down the calf’s leg to identify that he’s been done. Out comes another person with disinfectant and a knife and the castration is done. (Calf doesn’t even seem to notice the procedure.) If the calf has a shitty bum, out comes the bolus-bearer and slips two little bolus pills down the calf’s throat. Then here comes three guys, each with a different hot iron. My brother’s brand is WL (for Wade and Lorna) with a rafter above, so one guy does the “W”, one does the “L” and the third does the rafter.
After all this, honest to gawd, that calf jumps up and trots off as if nothing has happened. I’ve been told that the next day they’ll be a little sore (y’think?), but not for long. They’ll be back out on pasture in a couple of days!
At one point I counted six calves lying down with wrestlers on them at one time!
The horses. I have to tell you about the horses. They were amazing! Every single one of them knew his job and did it without so much as a flick of the tail. I cannot say enough good about the ranch horses I watched work. They were a variety of breeds — not all Quarter Horses. There was a big, hefty registered Paint that I admired greatly. Mind you, there wasn’t a bad horse in the lot. All well built. All knew their jobs. Not one made a mistake. They’d walk calmly into the crowd of calves. They’d calmly pull “their” calf out. They’d hold the calf ’til the wrestlers had it firmly planted and then they’d walk around all the people to get back to the pen. They were poetry in motion.
All the young bucks took the heavy duty jobs: wrestling, roping, castrating and branding. These were the boys — many of whom are now nephews of mine, but I couldn’t pick most of them out in that crowd. (Well, except the redhead!)
It wasn’t any more than 3 hours and we were done!
It was my first branding … but, I have to tell you — it was David who had a ball! *wink*