Sunday, May 27, 2012

Red carpet weekend.... rancher style

Greetings from Elkhorn Creek Ranch near the epicenter of the Bakken Oil Formation!
Post branding and moving pairs back out to grass.  A 'round table' discussion!

This past weekend was what we refer to as the 'big event' around here.  I scoped the face book feed last Monday morning for pictures and commentary  on the weekend activities of our friends and determined that we are typical rancher folks and 'tis the season. 

For us and a lot of other ranches, it was 'branding' weekend.  There are many ways to get this important event completed and it depends on the customs, traditions and skill set of your crew. 

At Elkhorn Creek Ranch we use a calf table and we do this for three reasons: 
1)  we aren't overstocked with young strapping teenage and 20 something males that are typically your prime wrestlers
2)  we usually are all riding colts and are marginal ropers at best (making roping a difficult task) and
3)  Pete is a control freak (not to throw him under the bus or anything, but he is) and wants to push every calf up the alley to the calf table and assess any other management needs that that calf might have beyond the routine vaccinations and identification markers.  Sometimes there are 'out of the ordinary issues' that need attention and also, there are numerous calves each year that we must collect DNA on (by pulling hair from the twist of their tails) to sire verify them.  Lastly, there is the task of making the important decision of which bull calves stay bulls and which ones become steers..... in the small animal world, it is referred to as neutering, in the equine world it is 'brain surgery' (this is my personal term and not a technical term, but it is TRUE), and in the bovine world, it is casterating.  And yes, 'the boss' (Brad's title for Pete) makes those decisions around here.

The table crew lying a calf down.  Brad and Lyle.

Lee explaining to Rae Lee Allen (Blaine and Carla Shaible's grand daughter) how getting their fly tags is similar to when she got her ears pierced.  She didn't think she would ever do that a second time.

Kim and Dad's cousin, Jimmy Hovet running gates and pushing calves up to the table.

Uncle Einar and Pete bringing calves up from the holding pen.  From there, Pete pushes them into the alley where Kim and Jimmy hold them until the calf in front of them is 'worked'.

Brad holding the table down and Dad (Kurt Hovet) placing a hot iron hip brand on each calf.
The hot iron brand take about 10 seconds to apply.  It removes the hair and scars the skin underneath to apply a non-removable mark of ownership which is legally recognized in the state of North Dakota.  Although not completely painless, to receive 'the works', each calf is in and out of the table in less than 45 seconds. After observing thousands of calves over the years after they have been worked, I suspect it feels similar to when you burn an arm or finger on the stove or oven when cooking or baking (which I manage to do at least monthly).  Most calves, after leaving the calf table find their mothers immediately and begin nursing.

I kinda wish a human trip to the doctor was as quick and 'low stress' as it is for a calf at Elkhorn Creek Ranch!

Well, here is to happy cows, healthy calves, and good food and good friendship during our 'Big Event' weekend.... (minus the evening gowns and tuxedos)!

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