Groundwork and Doctoring During Spring Brandingposted by Stran
One of my favorite times of the year is in the spring whenever we brand our calves. And my favorite part of that is when you get them in the lot, and you get them cut off from their mothers, and you get to go to the ground with ‘em. We still do it the old fashioned way, we drag ‘em to the fire. Some by the feet, most by the neck. Maybe its because I’m a calf roper and it gets my motor running being able to get my hands on a 300lb fresh one. In my last article I talked about the importance of making sure your professional rodeo hands kept their rope tied onto their saddle whenever they were in the pasture. When you get them in the lot nows the bonus to having professional calf ropers in the family. In other words there is no shortage of flankers. In my bunch the dragger never does get cussed by anybody for roping one around the neck. In fact its usually opposite! If he doesn’t have a good shot at the back feet you can usually hear over the roar of the burner “Stick it around his neck!” and then when they do, you usually have to get out in front of everybody if you want to be the first one to get your hands on him. This brings back so many memories about some of the things my granddad used to say. One was he’d say “Meet him with a smile” . This may not mean much to you if you’ve never got your hands on a 250-300lb sucking fresh calf thats coming up the rope at-cha trying to kick your pants off. But let me tell you, just sitting here talking about this makes my mouth water. I remember what he would say when you melted into a wild one and stuck him on the mat, he’d holler out “Thats the way I’d a done it”. Man I sure miss those days! I remember one year I was 19 or 20 and my dad thought I was having a lil trouble with kicking calves at the rodeo, so I flanked and tied bout 200 fresh ones that year. Needless to say they got a big kick outta watchin me get my head kicked off.
A few things on your check list that you need to make sure you have. First and foremost, the right medications. What you use depends a lot on your particular situation. That means developing a base vaccination protocol for your ranch around vaccines you know will work against the diseases your calves might see. Then modifying and adjusting depending on the situation. The most effective way to do that is to consult with your veterinarian year-round.
The next thing would be how do you mark your cattle? There are three different ways you can mark your cattle. You can brand, earmark, and tag. With the going price of beef reaching an all-time high I think its important to be able to identify your calves with all three methods. Thats what I do. I brand on the left rib cage, I ear mark with a left split and a right under-bit, and I tag both ears. One tag is a number and the other tag is my name, brand, and phone number. I have a system with my ear tags that i use. I tag every one of my cows, calves, everything with my name, brand, and phone number on the right ear with a white tag. In the left ear whatever year the calf was born or the year I bought that cow or calf I do it with a color depending on ribbon placement ( i.e.: blue, red, yellow, white, for 1st 2nd 3rd 4th) so for 2014 I did a 4th place placement color, white. Then along with that color I put the first number of the year it was born along with what number calf it was (ie: 4001 would be 2014 and it was the first calf born). There is an old saying that goes “Trust you neighbors but brand your cows”.
I always want to take advantage of every opportunity whenever I have my cows in the lot. So if there is anything special that needs to be taken care of I try and do it then. Examples being a cow having a bad foot, a horn that needs to be taken off, but I pretty much eliminated that when I went to raising straight angus. And you can too! This is an especially good time to worm your cows, whether you spray your cows for flies, back pour, or run them through the shoot and give them a shot to deworm. Once again this is a good practice to consult with your vet ahead of time to have a plan.
There is a reason why most americans, after they get through eating dinner, they end it with eating desert. I would like to leave my cows, pardon the pun, but with a good taste in their mouth when they leave the lot. So I always feed them on the way out. There is a couple reasons I do this. One, they don’t have such a bad feeling about the lots. The other is they hang around long enough to be able to find their calves and the calves find them. Sometimes you’ll have a few little calves that have had a rough day and they aren’t wanting to travel much. This gives them a little more time to recoup and lay down and rest while their mom stays close.