Sunday, 24 June 2012

Branding the babies..

This weekend we had planned on moving the cows and calves to their summer pasture.
But, before we could do that,
we wanted to first:
ear tag those we missed at calving time,
castrate the boys we missed at calving time,
deworm and finally
brand all the cows and calves.

The cows we can easily brand in a chute but the little calves are a bit tougher to do.

Yesterday late in the afternoon, cowboys Charlie and Joe popped in for a visit.
Charlie needed to borrow our tractor for a bit..
We needed someone to be able to rope our calves...
We knew that Charlie and Joe could rope!

So, we got at it and decided to get the calves done.
For all my Dutch and non cowboy friends this is how it works.

First you build some corrals.
Preferably round, but if that does not work then make a square with rounded corners.
Next round up all the cows and calves into the pens.
Gate sort the cows out and leave the calves behind.
This step, leads to a lot of noise
as all the cows stand around the pen  and bellow continuously.
It can be deafening.
make sure that you have everything you may need such as:
hot branding iron
ear tags
marking pen
as it is very frustrating in the heat of the moment to have to run back to the barn because you forgot something.

Next step is, gather up all the kids you can find.
You need a whole bunch of kids,
unfortunatly I don't have a whole bunch so that had to double up on chores!
  You need a "gate man"  and a "keep the calves moving" man,
and "stop the calves escaping" man:

Roy got volun-told for this job!
The you need a "pass me this and pass me that, take photo's, hold the calf, fill the syringe " kid.
Jess, was the "go to kid" for all the odd jobs.
Next you need a calf wrestler, once the calf is roped and dragged to the branding place he needs to be wrestled down and his head held.
This fine task was assigned to Eric.
Finally, you need a brander, vaccinator, castrator and tagger.
That was my job.
Even, though I had never branded before...
but I learn fast!

With everyone in place, the branding can start.
First, Charlie or Joe ride into the pen, they swing a couple of loops and then try to snag the two back legs of the calf.

After a bit of fishing, they finally get into the swing of things and caught a calf.
Joe is swinging his rope to the slide the loop under the belly of the calf so that he can step into the rope and gets caught.

If you look carefully, you can see that the red calf has both his hind feet snagged in the lariet (lasso).

This calf is then dragged out of the holding pen, into the branding pen a few meters further.

As he gets into this pen, Eric wrestles him down.

Jess and I jump into action and make sure that the calf is lying the right side up,
as our brand has to be on the right hip of the calf.
I then place my one foot on the calf to help keep him still and me balanced.
I then carefully brand the calf as quickly and efficiently as possible.
It does hurt and I am sorry calf...
Once the brand is done, the calf gets tagged and any other things that need doing.
We castrate our bull calves with rubber bands.

As soon as we can (all of the above takes about 1-2 minutes to do) the calf is released and he can join up with his momma again.

Some people have asked me why we need to brand, as the cows all have radio frequency identification tags.
The problem with these tags is that some animals lose them ( we do not have to double tag here).
A brand stays visible forever, is foul proof and it is easy to visually identify your animal when it becomes mixed into another herd by accident. We have had cows mixed up with ours and unless they are branded it really is hard to prove that that animal is yours.
This is our brand:
Double Diamond over half diamond
(We first played around with making a brand from our initials, but that did not work out. So, I thought,
what the heck, lets just make a smily face of sorts! That worked.)
Another question I have had is if we bite off the testicles of the bull calves.
In some places and countries they do this with lambs but here,
you either use a bander or a scalpel.
If you use a scalpel, you can then harvest prairie oysters for the after party...

If you have any questions about this process or would like a Prairie oyster recipe,
 or would like to know more,
then feel free to ask and I will do my best to answer them.

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