June 4, 2010

Branding at the JM-

As promised I'm posting pictures of the branding at my in-law's on May 20th. I got a little camera happy, so bare with me ;)
First though I want to introduce you to this little guy. He is my sister-in-law's new prize. She traded her two mini horses for this bred mare b/c she loves blue eyed horses, and just because...it sounded like a good idea. Then little bit arrived and look at him! He has two blue eyes too! The daddy is gray and white and it looks like little bit is going to be the same, but with the blue eyes of his momma! He is, thus far, still nameless. Such a cuttie needs a special name, so Rachelle is waiting for inspiration.

On to branding....after several days of cloudy, damp, cool, windy weather, branding day dawned sunny and warm and with just the right amount of breeze to keep the smoke and bugs moving away but not blowing dirt around. It was the perfect Montana day!
We started by rounding up all the cow/calf pairs and herding them into the corrals, then sorting off the cows and pushing them back out into the surrounding pasture. I was on horseback throughout that process, so no pictures of that. We'll start here...
...with the worried mamma's waiting for their calves. Well...two of them were worried. Apparently the fresh grass was too appealing and most of the mamma's got distracted from the immediate "emergency."
The calves on the other hand were not so easily distracted for obvious reasons.

Here are all 380 or so waiting to have the ranch brand put on their sides. Don't they look excited?

Once the calves are separated and contained in the one corral, there was some planning, job assigning, chatting, etc.
At the Johnson's ranch, they don't rope and drag and wrestle to the ground to brand. We used a different method that's not quite as "authentic western" but it sure does save some back work and also keeps things moving a little faster, or at least I thought so.

Its like an assembly line. To start, a group of calves is pushed into the chute, where several people hold them there until its their turn.
Here is my lovely sister-in-law Rachelle. She was at the front of the line and her job was to push each calf into place when it was his/her time to be branded. This was one of the little guys and he decided to take a nap while he waited his turn. He'd had a long morning. Rachelle decided to take a break with him.

Next the calf is pushed into the chute and the grapple bars are squeezed around him to hold him in place. Then the table is lifted...

...and the calf is now in position to be branded.

Last time I was able to make it to branding we branded, gave shots, and castrated the bull calves. But this year they had already done the shots and banded the bulls when they were born, so all we had to do is brand. It was a pretty fast process, and even with all the joking and goofing off, everyone worked together like a well oiled machine.

This is my in-law's brand. It is read as "J. M. Bar"
I got an easy job. Malcolm's mom and I took turns writing down the color and number of each calf's ear tag as it came through. But mostly we just chatted and enjoyed the wonderful weather and being outside.
After the brand is on, the table is set back up and the calf is released....
....to go find his momma....
...which can be a big job when there are 380 or so mamma's to search through. Sometimes it takes a while (especially when your momma is one of those out there grazing way out there on that distant hill), but eventually everyone pairs back up.
So..that's the process, and now here is a video so you can see it in motion and see how fast it really goes. If the thought of branding makes you squeamish, then don't watch. It's not gory, but the calf does bellow a bit during the process. The video will also give you an idea of the amount of noise 38o cows and 380 calves calling for each other can make! We didn't realize how noisy it was until we watched the video that evening.

Sweet freedom. Rachelle has a few longhorns (that are hornless) and this is one of her calves out of one of those cows. They always have the cutest calves. My in-laws have an assortment of colors. I like the little red calves best.

But the brand sure does show up nice on the white calves!

It was sweet to watch the reunions that took place between the calves whose mamma's had stayed close by to wait.
but sometimes there were still some issues on getting back together. Don't worry though. Calves are excellent fence crawlers. He'll manage to crawl through to his momma in no time at all!

And right before lunch break, I got to brand one too!
At the end of the day everyone was worn out, and some of us were sore. This is what Rachelle's leg looked like after 380 calves had kicked her before being pushed into the chute. And if you think this is bad, you should have seen it the next morning.
And this is me, tired and slightly sunburned, but happy after a fun day. The girls were a bit traumatized and very clingy for a while. They didn't' appreciate being left in the kennel all day long.

While us girls were inside relaxing, Malcolm and his dad enjoyed some quality time outside with some target practice at some muskrats that needed thinning out.
So there you have it! That's branding day at the Johnson's ranch! Hope you enjoyed it!
We delivered in Kentucky this morning and our Ohio load got messed up. So instead we're just passing through Knoxville, TN on our way to Chattanooga. We're going to spend the weekend with our family in Tennessee and then load north of Nashville on Monday morning! We'll be at my parent's in a couple hours and everyone is really excited, except the girls who don't' realize yet where we are going. They are all piled in bed back in the sleeper. But I'm sure they will be thrilled as soon as they realize we're going to play out of the truck all weekend.
Hope you all enjoy the weekend and I'll be back on Monday!


Dreaming said...

Wow...what a lot of calves! I was impressed at how quickly the process occurs - seems to be a whole lot more efficient than roping.
I'm a sucker for calves. I used to get to 'play' with them on my Grandparent's ranch. What fun!

Shirley said...

The colt is sure cute,grey with blue eyes- the name Ghost comes to mind. Great video, that sure works slick as a whistle! Nice that you had some sunshine too, the only thing I'm getting is waterlogged- no sunburn here! Can't complain though when I look at how the hay crops are growing.

Yankee Girl ~ Missy said...

Love the new blog song! OMG that looks like so much fun. Have you ever cut nuts. LOL I'd love to do that. ha ha

Jim Fisher said...

Nice post, liked the video. Well done.

small farm girl said...

Sarah, great pictures!!!! That table looked really handy.

You were about 3 or 4 hrs from us. We live up by Ashland Ky. Oh, and it's always humid here. lol

Willow Witch said...

Ummmmm.... the smell of hair on fire. We used to de horn our dairy calves, never got used to the smell. But the photos of the red and white calves....Awwwwww... makes me miss the babies...thanks for sharing

Meagan said...

Great post! Glad you did the video too, that showed how quickly it can be done! :-) So sad I missed you this weekend, but I'll see you on the 4th!