Branding day- the smell of burning hair, the bawling of calves, the chaos of people and cows and branding irons and vaccination guns, all in close proximity.
Did I mention HOT branding irons?
Note the flame coming off the hide of this poor calf-
I could pretend to be all politically correct and worried about the pain that the calf is going through, but, it's a necessary fact of life for these calves, the pain is momentary, and within moments, it's done and they are off to mama.Yes, occasionally someone gets stuck with the vaccination needle- but its's ok- they are guaranteed not to get blackleg or rhinovirus for at least a year-
In this yearly event, all the community that is available participates, moving from ranch to ranch, often branding 300 calves in just a few hours.
Cow/calf pairs are rounded up from the pasture by 4-wheelers and horses, brought into the corrals, sorted and seperated. Groups of up to 50 calves at a time are run into a corral filled with people. Two folks pick out a calf, grab it from the group, wrestle it to the ground, and while one person sits on its head and one holds its feet, it is systematically vaccinated, branded, and if need be, castrated.
Hence the Rocky Mountain Oysters: Castration is done by the older guys with a knife and their fingers- generally the knife is held in the teeth inbetween cuts-
No, I am not joking- it's the way it's done- The cool thing is, the kids are brought right into the middle of things- this is my girl, barely 75 lbs, sitting on the head of a 200 lb calf that she brought down (with help!)
Castration was not something my kids learned how to do that day, but eating calf nuts fresh fried on the branding iron was not an experience my 12 yr old son was able to pass up!
Sorry, no pics of that one!!
At the end of the morning, an enormous feast is spread in the ranch house- 5 main dishes in enormous crockpots, huge baskets of bread, 5 different kinds of salad, iced tea and lemonade, and 10 different kinds of pie.
That, and the unlimited beer (come on, this is ranch country-beer is water here), are all the pay that the folks get.Then onto another day and another ranch, 300 more calves, more beer and more food---it's a good ranch life!!