For those with weak stomachs, today’s post might be difficult. Branding calves is one of the most fascinating and yet disgusting processes, I have ever witnessed. The smell of burnt flesh, the rising smoke, the calf bawling in pain, so much pain poop ejects out of the backend of his ridge body like a fire hose. You wouldn’t believe how much poop. My least favorite job is manning the board that blocks they’re retreat out of the squeeze shoot for that very reason. It’s covered in that stinky goo after only one. Now imagine after fifty or so…Blah!
I’m sure many of you are wondering why rancher’s still use this antiquated technique. Honestly, they don’t have a choice. If they want to sell their cows at market, all cattle must be branded with the registered brand issued to the rancher by whatever state they live in. Placement is also important. My father-in-law’s registered brand is what’s called a rafter “E”, or the shape of a roof over a letter E. He must always place this brand on the left rib of all his cattle. He may not be the only rancher with this brand shape, so they use placement to differentiate between similar brands. Now if he moved to a different state and his brand and placement were already taken, he would have to choose another. This registration is used to ensure the cows belong to him, but also can be used by the F.D.A. to track any contaminated beef back to its source. See, it’s a necessary evil.
Though I’m sure some still think it barbaric, technology has improved the process a bit. My father-in-law no longer scorches the hide repeatedly with a red-hot straight iron until the brand shape is complete. He uses a pre-fabricated electric iron molded into his brand shape, to create his mark. This electric iron keeps the metal at a constant temperature, and cuts down on the number of times a calf must endure the searing pain to just once. Now if only I could find a job to do on branding day that didn’t leave me wanting to burn my clothes after we finished.