Wednesday, May 30, 2007

8th Annual Memorial Day Branding Weekend.

Since SD’s dad passed away in April of 2000, at least the two brother’s and their families make the pilgrimage to their childhood home and ranch to brand the current year’s “crop” of calves for their mother who still manages the ranch. This is the same ranch that me and SD are moving closer to in order to take over the management responsibilities as well as grow our own herd. This weekend was the 8th annual lazy J B slash Memorial Branding weekend. I believe we branded 50 calves (+/-) this year.

My main responsibility for the weekend was breakfast, and since my mother-in-law lives out in the middle of nowhere, there is apparently no reason for curtains, so I’m wide awake when the sun rises and shines in my face – so why not get up and cook breakfast and prepare the eggs the way I like them…

So we drove up there Friday night, and Saturday as the gang began gathering the home pasture’s herd after breakfast (Mother-in-Law’s herd is divided into two groups.) I prepared for a solo trip down (70 miles) to Tucumcari. The farm that we own down there has a old, dumpy trailer house that may have to serve (please Lord, no) as temporary abode while we prepare the site for our new home (a new double wide mobile home). So I arranged for a coworker’s son to show up and do some serious cleaning, ie removing all carpeting and associated yuck and dirt. While down there I noticed a little house for sale within a half a mile or less of our farm, and the wheels started turning. I spent the remainder of Saturday tracking down realtors and scoping out potentials in the vicinity (anything to keep me from having to spend a single night in that dumpy trailer). I found two potentials.

I took my bike with me and did a tough brick session on the road that will soon (hopefully) become my main training route. I didn’t start until about 12:30 and it was already in the mid 80’s with a nice breeze. About 5 miles north from our farm State Highway 278 crosses the Revuelto Creek. There was a nice place to park my vehicle off the road and under some shade trees. It was here that I set up my transition area and began riding north up out of the creek bed. The planned session consisted of a 15 minute ride, 10 minute run, rest 5 min., repeat 3 times. On the 3rd and 4th repeat the 4 minute rest is eliminated. I only did 3, as I was getting a bit hot when SD called on the cell phone at 2 pm to check on me and ask me to pick up something at the local ranch supply store. Before I left town, one realtor called me back and we made arrangements to look at one of the potentials on Monday.
On Sunday it was my turn to help with the branding of the south pasture herd. I hadn’t been involved in the branding since my boys were born, so I’m a little out of practice and I don’t have established tasks, so SD out of the kindness of his heart talked me into pushing. Let me try to summarize the branding process. First you gather the whole herd, which consists of mamma cows and their babies. Cows graze on pasture grass throughout the year. In the winter when there is no grass, they are fed hay. We supplement their diet with “cake” which sort of resembles dog food in color and is sweet due to the molasses contained in it. The cake has nutrients that the cows can’t get from the grass. We have a feeder mounted on a truck and we drive the truck into the pasture and dump an allotted amount of cake out for the cows. This is done daily or every couple of days depending on the condition of the grass. The horn is honked to let the cows know that chow has arrived, so they have learned that the sound of the honking horn means food. They love cake and come running.

This is also how we gather – we start honking the horn, but we don’t dump any feed until we get the whole herd into the corral. Once everyone is in the corral we separate the calves from the cows. We load the calves up in a trailer and take them to the main corral in the home pasture. Once in the main corral we push them into a small pen that has a chute at one end that ends at the branding “table.” The process is to get a calf into the chute and into the table contraption where they are restrained and flipped on their side at about table height. Then they are vaccinated, ear marked, ear tagged, de-horned, castrated if they are a bull calf, then branded.

Then they are released into the main corral. After all the calves are branded, we load them up and take them back to their mamma. One person’s job is to keep everything loaded, ie vaccine in the shot, tag in the ear tagger, band on the bander for the castration. Two people are doing all the stuff, operating the branding table, performing the branding, ear marking, ear tagging, vaccinating, it usually takes two pair of hands to castrate. This leaves one person to be in the pen and pushing each calf into the chute – me. At first this doesn’t sound too bad, these are baby cows, their cute and there’re little (between 150 – 350 lbs), but they kick and stomp and do whatever it takes to get out of the chute. You have to keep you hip in contact with their backside and their butt turned away to keep from getting kicked, then when you get to the end of the line – they stop and you have to push, twist their tail and push to get them to go in. Fortunately I was only kicked twice, stomped on once and climbed the fence several times – didn’t get pooped on too bad either.

Needless to say, I did not get another training session that weekend. We looked at the first potential house and decided that it is most likely potentially no. We’re going to have to look at the second potential by proxy, ie good buddy and digital camera. We’ve already like the second potential based on the few pictures and description on the website, but timing is everything, so who knows.


Unknown said...

Okay, your branding adventures sound worse than my home deconstruction adventures. And I do believe it counts as cross-training!!

Vickie said...

What a lot of work! The tri should be a piece of cake!