Tag Archives: branding

THAT TIME OF YEAR

 

 

Believe it or not, there are thirteen, or parts of thirteen, people in this photograph taken at Jody Fuller’s branding on December 15th—two calves are down. One of the things that has changed dramatically since I was a boy about the size of the two, (can you find them?) in the photo, is the processing at branding when the only vaccination we gave back then was a two-way clostridial. Everyone in this photo has a job.

The youngest boy with the purple glove has the pine tar to apply to the area of castration, the other has a syringe of Enforce 3 to apply in each nostril. Their mother, outside the pen, is keeping track of tag numbers (yes, there’s a tagger) and the sexes of the calves. Additionally, modified live vaccines to ward of respiratory illnesses and a broad spectrum of clostridial illnesses are given to each calf, plus a separate dewormer. Jody also gives her calves an injection of vitamins.

Because of the concern for antibiotics in beef, vaccines have been developed to limit the necessity for antibiotics in feedlots, essentially placing that responsibility, and cost, on the producer. The media is currently focused on the residue of antibiotics in most all the major hamburger outlets—old cows and bulls. A very small percentage of BEEF cows and bulls ever get an injection of antibiotics.

As neighbors, most of us are used to working together as we brand one another’s calves, but I think it’s remarkable that the job goes so smoothly, especially with two, unpredictable live calves on the ground.

 

Greasy Branding 1

 

 

Though we weaned our calves last spring in these pipe pens, we branded our first bunch of calves here yesterday. Earl McKee began construction nearly 20 years ago, and only with my sister’s help could we finish the job. In the upper pen, it feels as if we’re working on top of the world. With the camera on the table, multiple photo credits go to Audrey Maze, Allie Fry, Terri Blanke, Maggie Loverin and Robbin.

 

 

 

 

To make the handling process easier on the calves, we incorporated a head pen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHO WE WERE

 

 

Frozen in the folds of time:
blue smoke, oak flames,
gathered neighbors fed
when the work was done.

For 90 years, Cutlers drove cattle
to Rowell Meadow until 1953—
everybody came for my mother’s
father’s whiskey, meat and beans.

To get along, we will forgive
our ill-behavior, overlook
our extravagances, but sadly
we will forget who we were.

 

REAL LIFE

 

 

It’s a dance—
concentrate and relax,
guide the feel

of your horse
with your legs, find
the feel of your rope

at your fingertips
swing in rhythm
with the calf.

Like everything else,
it’s a dance—just
concentrate and relax.

 

Fuller Branding, Dry Creek – December 15, 2018

 

HEAVEN’S HOOF DANCE

 

 

Down the mountain, down
the four-wheel drive dirt track
to the asphalt that connects us

to home and families,
to basic urgencies far away
lost in time and space

beyond the whine of twine
around the heels of calves
stretched for branding—

when and where we are gods
for a moment, immune
to the insanities

of a civilized world.
All the old men gone
still lean against the boards.

I find my place among them,
whoop and illuminate
color with details,

hoping to see myself once more
stepping to the untamed rhythm
of heaven’s hoof dance.

 

 

Paregien Branding 2018

 


 

 

 

While waiting for the irons get hot, the first brandings of the season are like social events, a community of neighbors catching up with one another, great help from the first calf to the last. Thank you all.

 

GOOD HANDS

 

 

It could have been dreams
in a young man’s sleep,
lightly listening for the bell mare

high in the granite scree
that glows under starlight—
a celestial showering

from a leaky bucket sky
that came over me
to be a cowboy.

I did it well-enough
to stay in the same place
to become a cowman.

But it could have happened
at a branding, watching good
young hands just come to help.

 

 

Photo credit: Audrey Maze

 

Calves at the Gate

 

 

We began baiting our cows and calves on the Paregien Ranch into the gathering field, yesterday, with the Kubota and a little alfalfa hay. We plan on branding tomorrow, trying to take advantage of our drying roads after 2.5” of rain last week. Fortunately, the Valley fog was not a factor until midday when it rose to cloak landscapes up to 2,500 feet. We’re going back this morning with horses to collect a little bunch we missed and sort the dry cows and late-calvers from the bunch. It’s still too early this morning to tell where the fog is.

With ample dry feed, we haven’t had to supplement these cattle this season except for a little ‘hello hay’ when we’ve checked them. Though the cows know our gathering routine and are camped on the hay we’ve strung-out through the gathering field in the photo, it’s a brand new experience for the calves. I found their confusion looking longingly beyond the gate, to the ground they knew, humorous enough to pull out the camera.

 

Home

 

 

I’m fasting before I have to brave the dark, foggy drive into Visalia this morning to have some blood drawn. I woke at midnight on the 9th of November with excruciating abdominal pain that put me in the hospital for a week with an infected gallbladder, an errant gallstone stuck somewhere in my plumbing beneath my sternum.

At my age, ambulance paramedics and emergency personnel are trained to assume chest and abdominal pains are likely to be a heart attack. Despite X-ray and a CT-scan, the correct diagnosis required two trips to Emergency before beginning a regime of antibiotics and pain killers. Too infected for surgery at the time, we’re currently working towards a date to remove my gall bladder, a month or so away at best.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we got rain, the grass is coming, the Angus bulls are out and the Wagyu bulls arrive next week—it’s time to brand, our annual dance around the weather with the help of our neighbors. It’s good to be back home.

 

Paregien Branding

 

 

We did brand at the Paregien yesterday with the fine help of good neighbors and friends. Despite the lack of rain so far this grass season, the cows and calves are doing well at this higher elevation. The ample old feed from last year has protected the new green that has surprising strength, everyone glad to have these calves marked before they grew any bigger. A big THANK YOU to the crew from Robbin and I.