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Brandin' Calves

4-26-14, Burns, OR (or thereabouts) - Today, Jacquie and I were invited to attend a branding at the double 0 ranch, owned by our good friends Candace and Garrin Moon. Calf brandings, like the one put on today are nearly identical to how things were done 100 years ago. There were a dozen cowboys roping calves, another dozen working on the ground, and a bunch of observers, charged with keeping the beer recycled in the cooler, with fresh cans working their way to the top. A fast working crew of friends and neighbors managed to brand, castrate, notch ears and inoculate 234 calves in just a few hours. After the branding, everyone gathered for a catered, barbecued lunch and helped to further reduce the level of unopened cans in the beer cooler.

I let the pictures tell the rest of the story.

This young cowboy is about ready toss a lariat around the head of a calf.  The mare this lad is riding was a little sensitive to a rope on her hocks. A little later she freaked out and pitched the cowboy, stepping on his thigh in the process.  In true cowboy fashion he shortly got back on his horse and went back to roping.

After one cowboy ropes the calf around the neck and moves in out of the herd, another ropes the hind legs.  Then the calf in dragged over near the fire and stretched out for branding and doctoring.

After the head rope is moved to the forelegs, the calf is stretched out to hold it immobile for branding and doctoring. Branding and notching ears may be a crude and painful way of maintaining ownership of a cow, but it is a time proven method to keep a rancher’s cattle from becoming someone else’.  In this picture, two horses and a cowboy are holding the calf immobile, while a ground crew brands and doctors the calf,  Usually, the calf is back with his momma less than five minutes after being roped.

This cowboy has mastered the difficult task of branding a calf without spilling his beer - definitely the mark of a pro.

As a backup to branding, the Double O notches the calves ears in a pattern registered in the State Branding Book.

Near the end of the day, fewer unbranded calves were found, so the ground crew had an easy time while the cowboys searched the herd.

Earlier, it was like an assembly line. Nearly all the cattle were polled (bred without horns) but an occasional calf will show up with horn buds, To keep them from developing into full grown horns, a hot iron is used to cauterize the buds.

Branding irons are heated in a fire, the same way it has always been done, There are ranches that brand their calves in squeeze chutes with electrically heated branding irons, after rounding up the cattle with “Japanese Horses” - of the Honda and Kawasaki breeds, but I don’t think you’ll find much of that here in central Oregon.

There’s nothing like a good barbecue when the work is done.

After retiring back to the ranch HQ, Garrin Moon spent a few minutes working with the mare that pitched the young cowboy earlier in the day. The mare had some scaring on her hocks, indicating that she had probably been caught up in wire or a rope sometime in her past.  In just a few minutes work, Garrin had worked her through most of her issues.  A couple more sessions like this and she’ll stand well the next time she gets a rope across the hocks.

This was a very fun day.

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