Every ranch has a story. Every piece of land has a history. Every barn holds a memory. Every family member involved enriches the stories, history and memories of the ranch. Every cow has an impact on the sustainability of the multi-generation business.
And every brand placed on the hide of an animal represents the reputation and legacy of the ranching outfit.
It’s branding season, especially in Western states as well as across the country, where friends and families gather together on the ranch to brand and work calves before the summer grazing season begins.
At Van Newkirk Herefords in Oshkosh, Neb., it’s an annual event that everyone looks forward to.
“This year, God blessed us with beautiful weather, great help and lots of fun for branding day,” said Cyndi Van Newkirk, who prepared enough food to accommodate the 65+ guests who visited the ranch that day. “There’s just something wonderful about gathering together, working hard, and then taking part of an afternoon to totally enjoy fellowship with friends and neighbors. For many it was their ‘first day off’ since Christmas.”
With all the fun and fellowship of a traditional branding day, there are also unwritten rules for who is in charge of what.
Naomi Loomis, of the Circle L Ranch in Alliance, Neb., recently tackled this subject in a blog post titled, “Branding etiquette.”
Loomis writes, “There is an etiquette in every culture and the branding corral is without exception. Some rules are spoken, some unspoken.
“I will never forget my first Nebraska branding. I was amazed how well people respected each other, the traditions that had been passed on and just the amazing feeling of being there.”
Based on her experiences, Loomis lists the unwritten branding rules, which may differ from ranch to ranch:
1. The owner brands the calves.
“It’s the top job,” she says. “The owner is the boss. They also delegate who should rope and for how long. They also delegate who should cut and give shots. Always wait to be asked to do your job.”
2. It’s an honor to be asked to rope at a branding.
“You should respect the other ropers,” she advises. “Help them out. Dragging one calf with two roped back feet is better than dragging five with one back leg. Take your time. If you can, pull your calf to the wrestlers closest to the branding pot, so branders don’t have to walk so far. If you high hock a calf, try to get the rope down.”
3. The brander gets first dibs on a calf.
“They have the hot iron which cools quickly. Shots and cutting can wait,” she says.
4. You are expected to wrestle at branding if you can.
“You should not ever let your calf up until he is done,” she writes. “Watch for the ropers, don’t stand in their way.”
5. Leave your colts and dogs at home.
6. Bring something to share at lunch.
She says, “It is a nice gesture to bring something to the branding for lunch — usually a salad or dessert. Remember that the men and women who helped in the branding corral eat first. And make sure you thank the lady of the house for lunch.”
7. Your kids are your responsibility.
Loomis says, “You are in charge of your own kids at branding. If you want to rope or help out, then make sure you have someone to watch them if they are not old enough to help themselves. It would be disrespectful to expect, or even ask the ladies preparing lunch, to watch them.
What else would you add to this list? What do you love most about branding season? What does your brand mean to you? What are some of your best branding day memories? And if you’re like my outfit and don’t have a brand, you can also share what your ranch name or breed registration prefix represents? I would love to learn more about your operations!
Share your stories with me on BEEF’s Facebook page or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.