Random Branding

By Patty Wilber

A friend of mine had two longhorn cows that needed branding.

Unfortunately, he had no cattle chute.

I figured it’d make a good blog, so I offered to help.

First, we had to get a cow into the trailer.

Longhorn in the field.

This entailed hand herding….foot herding…ground herding…whatever…moving the cows into a small pen and then into the trailer.  There were four angus cross yearlings and the two longhorns.  It took a few near misses before we got them all into the small pen and then a little patience to separate out a cow from the rest and convince her to step into the trailer.

Fortunately, the longhorns are both pretty tame, so, by blocking the escape avenue and just waiting, the target cow soon saw the “hole” (with some hay as an incentivizer) and went in. It was, surprisingly, easier than expected.

Once in, she had to be pushed up to the front of the trailer.

The cows are pretty large, so squishing one into the front slot required a little prodding.  Not having a hotshot, we used a rake.  Unfortunately, when someone knocks said rake off the top of the trailer on to someone else’s head, it sort of smarts.

Ow! I was seriously hoping for a much better bruise from this knot, but nope.  Two weeks later I still have a little lump, but my head barely even turned green!

Well, we couldn’t let a little thing like that get in our way.

Next step was to lasso the cow (those horns were helpful) and squeeze her face against the side of the trailer.  The lassoing was a tad tricky to do between the bars.  But once we got that done, I held her fast.  Peter branded.  I did not cry, but felt like it.  I mean a hot branding iron on the cheek is way worse than a rake falling from the sky. The cows, surprisingly, also did not cry. They were both very stoic, but still stressed.  At least the branding is quick, but, I was thinking, a bit archaic. Bleeding heart, I know.

The brand is the black mark on her cheek.

After the cows were done, we loaded up the angus.  They were not as easy to load, but the same principle did work.  Cut off the escape (I used a T-Post as a faux fence rail, which was remarkably effective–no one tried to run through it), and wait for at least one to see the hole.  Being herd animals, if one goes, usually the rest will follow. 

The four blacks, to be loaded.

Two were headed to market and two to the freezers of two buyers.

We transferred the moms back to their bigger pasture.

And a week later….

Aw! A new little heifer! Photo by Joyce.

Guess we might have to go on a mini branding! No crying.


About BlogPatty

Here's the skinny: I have a thing for horses. They make sense to me. I have a small horse training business (it's a "boutique" training business, not because it's super fancy, but because the horses get a lot of personal attention). I also go by Dr. Wilber, and teach biology full-time at a Central New Mexico Community college.
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8 Responses to Random Branding

  1. Doranna Durgin says:

    Maybe a tad TOO much adventure? OMG, a rake!!

    (Mr. Other reliably leans the rake against the barn with tines out so I’ll step on them in the tight spacing and whack myself in the face. I shake it at him like an old lady with a cane (an image creeping closer to reality) and snarl, “There’s a reason rake-in-face is the oldest meme on the planet!”)

    • Caryn says:

      Gee. I’m a city kid albeit with a backyard and so some familiarity with rakes and even I know that one.

    • BlogPatty says:

      I threw a hay bale on a dolly once. Dolly to the head. That one required stitches!

  2. Nancy says:

    Dang! You are a good friend! Quite the adventure!

  3. Elizabeth Moon says:

    What an adventure! I have helped with walking cattle into confinement…working pens, chutes for shots and dehorning , and a “leap-up” trailer. Not an expert. But a useful body to stand or move when the cattle owner directed. I don’t “read cow” as well as I can read horses, so my early tries at “helping” were probably at least 50% messing up instead. None of the ones I was helping with were longhorns. I would be really tense around those.

    I remember my first time with dehorning esp. because it showed me something more fantasy & historical writers need to know. Three families were involved, one of them with a little girl maybe 2-2 1/2 years old. Dehorning calves can be a bloody procedure; the toddler, who’d grown up on her family’s farm since birth, looked at the pool of blood just in front of the head-gate of the chute and said “Pretty red! Pretty red!” Her mother restrained her from patting the shiny red puddle, but showed no upset at the blood.

    Later that day, helping her family (who raised pigs) catch and hold young pigs for their shots, and noting that the kids were not wrinkling their noses at the smell, or upset by the pigs screaming bloody murder (as they do) I realized that people who raise critters and live on farms and ranches, are just not squeamish about manure, critter urine, blood, etc. And any book that shows the villagers/farmers/nomads/whatever characters overly aware of the manure, or the smells from the cowbyres and pig styes, are modern inventions of a modern writer in a city. It’s as natural to them as the smells that waft out the doors of stores we walk past or into are to us. I made sure that MY peasants and others who would be familiar with animal smells didn’t pick up their literary skirts and tiptoe through the pages with a nosegay under their nose. Made me more aware of other anachronisms, too.

    • Patty says:

      I was quite grateful that these long horns are very tame, because the horns were a bit intimidating.

      That was a keen observation, well put to use, regarding your peasants!

      • Elizabeth Moon says:

        I’m glad your head’s no worse. And that the longhorn gals were tame.

        About that time of the dehorning and pig work, I read a fantasy set in a peasant village…no contact with cities or wealthy folk…and the main character was sploshing down the muddy street wishing she could be somewhere that the streets weren’t muddy and it didn’t smell bad. And thought…How would she even know? I was a town child…paved streets, etc…but all around us were farms and we did know people who lived on them…but we weren’t out there all the time. My mother had grown up on a five-acre place with a cow they milked, and chickens, and a horse, at the edge of a small town, so she knew cow smells before I did.

        My two are going through the hay like crazy in this cold spell (cold for us, I’m sure you’re colder.) Very fluffed out. I managed to get a blanket on Rags yesterday, to see his reactions, but basically he wasn’t cold (yet) and he’s going to be easy to blanket. Tigger…wants nothing to do with the blanket.

        • BlogPatty says:

          I had to do a little blanketing when it went from 60F to snow-for-a-day in September, but since then everyone seems to have acclimated well. It has been cold this week here.

          I wonder why Tigger does not like the blanket? Surely he was blanketed at some point in his life?

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