BRANDING AT HYDE RANCH ANGUS!
Earlier this month we profiled Bill and Beverly White and their purebred Angus cattle operation, Hyde Ranch Angus. They invited us to visit them during their annual branding, which was held in April. Branding takes a lot of hands and a few steady, well trained horses. The folks that helped this year were the White’s family – their kids and their spouses, their brothers and a good friend.
The White Family, riding out to gather the calves.
The Hyde Ranch Angus brand
Did you think that branding was a thing of the past? Not so! Cattle ranchers across the West brand their calf crop each spring, and for good reason. Brands are critical in proving ownership of an animal. It – and tattooing – is the only recognized way the law accepts as proof of ownership. Kind of like the pink slip on your car: your brand, your calf.
Brands heating in the fire
Ranchers tend to be old fashioned, they like to keep the old ways alive. Many modern ranchers use traditional methods on their operations. Branding at the White’s place is the same as the Old West. Riders on horseback rope and immobilize each calf, while the people on the ground position the calf properly, someone else grabs the hot iron from the fire and runs it over to the calf, and then Bill presses it into the calf’s hip.
Waiting for the next calf to be roped. That’s Bill in the foreground, and his daughter, Stacy on the paint horse.
Laying the calf down after it’s been roped.
Bill & Beverly’s son, Lance, holds the calf’s head for his dad, and carefully positions the calf right before the branding iron is brought over from the fire.
Bill tries to keep the whole mood of the branding as calm as possible. The horses are good, savvy, and know what to do. The men and women helping him are, too. It’s an efficient, respectful process, and the calves are handled carefully. In order to brand them, they must be immobilized, and Bill believes that the traditional method of roping and laying them on the ground is less stressful for his calves than using the squeeze chutes. These aren’t little animals – even though they’re babies and are still nursing, they weigh between 200-300 lbs!
Bill places the iron just so, then a quick press, and it’s done.
Everybody watches and holds still.
Sometimes, ranchers do a lot more at their brandings. They may castrate and vaccinate all at the same time as branding. Bill doesn’t do this. He doesn’t castrate, of course, because these little calves are being raised to be bulls! He vaccinates them earlier in the season, on his own. Branding in itself is a huge job, and he wishes to keep things as simple as possible.
While the iron is being pressed onto the calf, Bill’s daughter, Dana assists by holding the calf still.
There are other methods of cattle identification, like eartags, ear notches, and ear and lip markings or tattoos. Eartags are important to the rancher – they tell him the animal’s number, sometimes the year it was born, and who its parents are. But, they aren’t permanent ID. They rip out or can be easily removed. Tattooing is expensive and an animal has to be caught in order to examine the tattoo. The hot brand actually tans the hide, and leaves the branded area hairless. It hurts only for a second, kind of like getting your ears pierced or a tattoo.
Flipping the head and heel ropes off the calf right after it’s been branded so it can run free.
A brand is the way cattle are linked to the ranch they belong to, especially in the West, where we have big ranges, and animals move freely from pasture to pasture. A brand is visible from a distance, and will be with the animal for life. It is important for a rancher to be able to identify his cattle and their brand – especially when cattle are grazing on open rangeland, where they can wander and sometimes mix with herds from another ranch.
Freshly branded calves, lined up, ready to back to the pasture.
Every state has a Brand Inspection Agency. This agency approves, records, keeps track of, and manages the brands in the state. Every ranch that uses a brand registers its brand design and location with the state brand inspection agency. Most brands are placed on the shoulder, hip, or side.
All branded, and running back to mama!
Cattle rustling is a still problem in the West, especially when beef prices are high! Cattle disappear regularly, and the Sheriff or Brand Inspector will be on the lookout for suspicious looking brands on animals. Although a brand could be branded over, having a unique identifying mark helps discourage cattle thieves from making off with a rancher’s livestock.
Cows and calves, reunited, grazing, like nothing ever happened.
Once its all done, the calves scamper back to their mothers, they nurse, and everything is all right with their world.
The 2015 White Family Branding Crew. A good day’s work safely done.
After the tools and equipment are put away, everyone is invited to the house, for a nice, hearty lunch prepared by Beverly. What do you think is served? BEEF OF COURSE! D-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s!