From Pipi’s Pasture: A hassle-free branding
It has been almost impossible to predict what’s going to happen this spring — both positives and negatives — so when it came to branding this year, we were prepared for most anything. First, there was the weather, a usual complication when it comes to branding. Over the years more than one branding has been cancelled last minute because of rain or snow. This year might be the same. Then we wondered how the cattle would work, when it came to sorting off the calves and working them through the chute. One or both could have left us having nightmares.
We helped my brother, Duane Osborn, brand up at Morapos the weekend before last. The weather ended up being good, and the calf-sorting was easier than usual. While it is common for at least one calf to slip through the chute and escape, not this year! Branding was a breeze.
So, I held my breath when we decided to brand calves this last weekend. Would it go as well as Duane’s? The weather forecast was iffy. Chances were that a storm would move this way. So I waited until Sunday morning, branding day, to decide whether or not to cancel. I got up at 5 a.m., made the coffee, and popped a ham in the oven. I waited until 6 a.m. I peeked outside. It was cloudy and cool, and the wind was blowing.
I tried to calm my nerves by making a pasta salad, a time consuming job. Just before 7 a.m., I called our son Jody who lives in Vernal. He and Cindy were planning to come help with branding. He said the sky was clear there. He had heard that rain was to start about 3 p.m. that afternoon. I figured the storm, forecast to come in from the west, would hit here in late afternoon, too. So I called Duane and a family friend, Tom Clevenger, to let them know that branding was still on.
At normal chore-time, I mixed up a bottle for the calf at the corral and went about doing the chores. It was still cloudy, windy, and cool but not raining. We postponed feeding hay to the main herd until we had some help to put them in the back corral so the calves could be sorted off. I came back to the house to work on lunch. Meantime, Lyle opened the gate to the back part of the corral. The cattle saw green weeds that were growing there and every single one ran inside.
Who would have guessed? There wasn’t even one cow or calf straggler left in the pasture! So far, so good. Would our luck continue?
Lyle and I put hay out in the pasture so it would be easier to sort off the calves. What a treat! There were no nuisance cows to pull bales off the flatbed trailer. Duane showed up while we were putting off hay, and then we sorted off the cows and yearlings. Guess what happened?
The sorting job was hassle-free, and it wasn’t storming yet.
When Jody, Cindy, and Tommy arrived, we put three cows from the front corral in a pen, hassle-free, and then gathered up the calves. One calf had crawled into the pen with the bull, but otherwise the calves were moved into the front corral without a hitch.
The last of the hard jobs was to put the calves into a little pen behind the chute. Calves have a difficult time seeing an open gate so this job usually requires an army of helpers. Guess what happened? They were in the little pen in a flash.
All that was left was the branding and vaccinating. We finished in a hurry, and there was no storm yet. The calves kicked up their heels and took off for the feedlot to eat hay. Clearly they were feeling good. It had been a hassle-free branding.
As I write this column, it is 34 degrees, and the snow is falling. It’s good to be done with branding.