Soapweed's Ranch Ramblings
The writings of a Nebraska Sandhills cattle rancher!

Branding Pictures
April 14, 2005

These are a few pictures to demonstrate our branding gizmo. We did 116 calves Wednesday. A friend asked when it would be a good time to come borrow my horse-drawn "Little Dickens" big round bale feeder (which is like a horse-drawn Hydra-bed). I told him to come yesterday, and he could get in on our branding. He did, and the rest of our crew was Saddletramp, Mrs. Soapweed, and me.

We made a few innovations that helped. We put about 40 calves at a time in the actual branding pen, and the rest are held in an adjacent corral made with portable panels. One problem is for the roper to detect which calves are "available" and which calves are already done. We put a chalk mark on the opposite flank, so it is easy to tell the ones that are branded.

The advantage of our deal over a Nord Fork is that the roper isn't compelled to wait until the calf is processed. When the calf is locked into place, the roper is free to grab another lariat and go catch another calf. With any luck, he has another one snagged and ready to pull into position when the first calf is done. In essence it saves one person. No matter how much a calf struggles, they are fairly immobilized with both hind feet elevated off the ground. This is not as hard on a calf as a Nord Fork, because it is just the weight of the calf for pressure rather than a twelve hundred pound horse keeping them stretched out.

On the bunch last week, Mrs. Soapweed had a pouch strapped around her waist which held two vaccine guns and the implant gun. Yesterday, we used a small kid's toboggan and slid it into place after each calf was captured. This contained the vaccine guns and other parphenalia, and was much handier.

Anyway, the deal seemed to work real well. The day was 60 degrees and no wind, so all in all, our job turned out to be a lot of fun.

We branded a bunch of 162 calves Saturday, using both our new machine and our original prototype. These were the oldest and biggest calves on the place, and about 30 of them were January calves out of cows that I bought. Being right at three months of age, some of them were husky enough that they would have really tested even ambitious football player type calf wrestlers. By roping them with both hind legs and raising their rear ends up off the ground, and then securing the rope, they were fairly immobilized and easy to process.

Our crew consisted of Saddletramp, Mrs. Soapweed, our sophomore son (Brock), his cousin (Brian McCrory, who has just completed a tour of duty in Kuwait), my sister (Sybil), and me. Later in the day, my dad came along and wanted to rope awhile. I let him ride Tom Cat, and between Dad and the horse, they had 105 years of total ranching experience (Dad is 82, and Tom Cat is 23). Saddletramp's gracious wife had volunteered to make the noon meal, and she did a super job. She works at the Cody School as a secretary, but has experience as a ranch cook and also in operating a café. She hasn't forgotten a thing about cooking, even though she presently gets more practice typing.

Once again, we were happy with the way the machine performed. It is much more “rope friendly” than our original prototype (which was also set up and in use when we needed it). The original mud flap rubber on the "rope grabber", had deteriorated enough that we had to re-do it. This time we used belting from a hay baler, and after using it on over a hundred calves, hardly any wear is observed. This will undoubtedly be the rubber of choice.

The job took a big chunk of the day, but it was accomplished favorably. We had access to the corrals at my dad's headquarters, so separating the cows from the calves was done with the aid of a sorting alley. The branding took place in this alley, also. Electricity was nearby so we used an electric branding iron. The quietness was enjoyed, in comparing it to the roar of a propane stove. We set up both contraptions at the end of the alley, so when a calf was done, it could be easily dismissed out into a bigger corral. We let twenty calves at a time into the alley, and waited until they were all branded before putting twenty more into the roping area. The weather cooperated wonderfully, and the temperature was near 70 degrees with very little wind. In fact, just a slight gentle breeze would have been welcomed.







Copyright © 2005 Steve Moreland
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