Everyone has their own reasons for the way that they do it and its best just to smile, nod, pitch in and try not to get in the way.
Friends of ours up north invited us to come and help them with their family branding day. This is truly a family affair as daughter, son in law, grandkids and parents all live and work the same ranch that great grandparents homesteaded in the 1800's.
The original sod house is still on the property right next to the barn- as we will share in future posts, prairie winters make that location a huge necessity!!
This family uses an instrument called a calf table- this is a metal chute with moveable sides- the calf is pushed down an alley into the chute, the sides are collapsed onto the calf, the table is flipped sideways and the calf is systematically vaccinated, branded and if need be, castrated.Again, this would seem somewhat heartless and cruel, especially when the calf is bawling like crazy, the mama's are mooing in the the background and the smoke is rising from the calf's side, but the necessity for this cannot be illustrated enough.
Vaccinations have helped to save countless numbers of America's beef, brands help to identify cows when they are loose on thousands of acres of pasture land, and castration keeps breed lines clean and allows for the nice cuts of steak that are so valuable in the grocery stores.
And of course, the kids are right in the middle of things- notice the nice manure stain right down my daughter's white shirt- whatever possessed me to send her in a white shirt, I will never know- you do a lot of laundry in ranch country!!
She learned the hard way that the key to not getting kicked by a calf was to get right up behind it, pushing on its hind end- sometime those calves just can't wait til the proper time to go to the bathroom! So your choice is a calf kick, (not pretty and very painful) or manure down the shirt- you can see what her option was!!
I won't even go into cowboys in chaps- let's just say that if my husband would let me, this would be a poster size picture hanging on our wall- Whew! Is it getting hot in here?
My littlest had a hard time with not being able to get into the pens and wrestle the calves- so this was her big job- once the calves were let loose from the calf table, she was responsible for chasing them into their pen and keeping them there- you can see that she is taking it very seriously....
This is my crazy son in his psychedelic t-shirt looking like something more out of the peaceloving 60's than a ranch kid- well, you can put kids in the country but you can't make 'em dress like it!
He worked hard that day, took a few well placed calf kicks for the team, and kept on wrestling those calves into the chute- those calves really don't want to go in the chute! Can ya blame 'em?
This process moves a little more slowly- we only did around 100 calves that morning- but once again, a huge ranch lunch, lots of lemonade and iced tea and amazing desserts-
it's a good thing that we work hard around here!!!