Posts Tagged ‘yearlings’

Would you look at that?

I got busy with ranch life and totally ignored my blog for a month but when I finally checked in the first thing I noticed was that it has topped over 10,000 views.  Is that exciting or what?  I guess I better get busy and write some more stuff!

We have been busier than heck back here at the ranch so I’m dragging butt.  We have gathered cattle, sorted cattle, worked cattle, doctored cattle, preg checked cows, weaned calves, shipped yearlings and calves ( 2 very full trucks of them) and finally sold cattle. 

Life has pretty much revolved around cattle for the last two months and I have literally been ‘candy coated’ with manure for a very large share of that time.  Hubby has had something scheduled for every weekend and evening for so long I wasn’t sure which way I was going.  But the yearlings and the calves have been sold now so it’s a relief to be down to just the bred cows and the bulls for the winter. 

Even though there wasn’t much rain and we barely saw a green blade of grass all summer the yearlings and calves did very well.  We were lucky that there was grass left over from last summer that they were able to graze.  And even luckier that we didn’t lose any of it to the many fires that were going all summer long.  We figured our yearlings gained an average of 1.9 lbs. every day.  They looked pretty fat and sassy when we gathered them up for the trip home. 

I have to admit most of the yearlings we get are the wildest and dumbest critters you could ever meet up with but this batch was great.  They may have spoiled us but I’m betting next years herd will bring us bouncing back to reality in short time.

With no new growth this summer the pastures are looking pretty bare.  Normally, we would graze till the snow piles up but this year we will probably have to start feeding before that happens.

Everybody I talk to is praying for snow.  After a long summer full of drought and fires it’s been nice to see the ground white a couple of times already and we’ve even had to scrape a little mud off your boots once or twice.  I like mud.

After gathering this fall we are still short one bull off of the Forest Service permit.  Hubby has spent quite a few days on the mountain looking for him and has had no luck so far even though some of the hunters we’ve talked to have seen one.  He’s either a very elusive little bugger and has moved in with another herd or els he has died somewhere back in the woods.  In that case we might never find him.

It has been another wild summer so I’m thankful for a little break.  I did manage to squeeze in a couple of community education classes in my free time.  All of them were in Rapid City this year so I ended up driving like hell after work to get there in time and then getting home around midnight.  It made for some long days but the classes were great and well worth it.  I usually try to sign up for a few every year just to try out something I’ve never done before and this year was no exception – beekeeping,  scuba diving and pistols.  I’ll have to tell you about that weird combination next time.

And one final thought for today – My prayers go out to the crew and families of the HMS Bounty which sank off the coast of North Caroline early Monday morning.  I got to tour this beautiful old ship last March when it was in port at Old San Juan Puerto Rico.  She was built in the 60’s for the movie ‘Mutiany on the Bounty’ starring Marlin Brando.  They followed the plans of the original Bounty when they built her but she was enlarged by 1/3 scale to accommodate the large movie cameras used at the time.  Originally, they planned to blow her up for the final scene of the movie but it seems Mr. Brando fell in love with the ship and threatened to walk off the set unless they changed their plans.  So they blew up a model instead and the ship was saved.  Over the years it has gone from used to neglected to restored to sold and then used for movies again and was currently up for sale for 4.6 million.  For the last few years she had traveled to various events and even was used as a summer camp for kids on occasion.  If I had got to go to summer camp like that I would never have come home!


After I saw her she was scheduled to leave port to work her way along the east coast and arrive in time for several events all along the coast before turning back mid summer so she would arrive back to Puerto Rico where she would remain through the winter.  It sounded like a wonderful way to spend the summer.  When I jokingly asked about any job openings they might have the young man giving me the tour was pretty quick to inform me that they were looking for a new cook as the last one had just gotten a job on another ship.  He appeared almost desperate enough to eat my cooking and even told me how to get an application.  I made sure to mention my new job opportunity to Hubby when I talked to him on the phone.  He wasn’t exactly thrilled by it but it was very tempting to me.  I have always been facinated by the tall ships.

The last report I’ve heard was that 14 of the 16 crew members were safely rescued shortly after she sank.  Unfortunately one crew member was found dead and they are still searching for the last member of the crew – the captain.  Since they were all well prepared for emergencies and the waters average 70 to 80 degrees there is still hope that he will be found alive.  I hope so.

She was a beautiful ship and I am glad I got a chance to see her.



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(To the tune of Ding Dong the Witch is Dead from the Wizard of Oz)

Ding Dong the Cows are Out!

Which Old Cows?

The Wicked Cows!

Ding Dong the Wicked Cows are Outtttt! 

(to Pasture – that is)

Yes, it’s true, the cattle are all where they are supposed to be so life is good and the living is easy.

Yeah, right…

That means it must be time to work in the garden…  OK,  but I’m taking a break first.  Tonight I will tat because it is over 100 degrees outside and I ain’t going out there!

I have been going a little stir-crazy lately, our internet dish has been out of alignment – again!!!  For the last month!!!  So we haven’t had internet except on my cell phone and that just isn’t the same.  Sorry for whining – I will quit now because as of tonight we are back up and running so let me show you some of what’s been going  on here.


We have moved most of the yearlings to a new set of pastures we’re leasing this year.  The new pastures are about 52 miles from home and they look a little brown in the photos because we’re way behind on rain this year.  But believe it or not, these pastures are quite a bit better than most of the ones in Weston County.  It has already been a tough  year and when you throw in a few  wildfires  (the biggest one burned up almost 62,000 acres) it is not pretty.  Pastures with any grass are hard to find and hay to buy is almost nonexistent.  Hay that was selling last year for $65.00 – $85.00 / ton is going for $125.00 to $285.00 per ton this year so that means cattle are going to the sale barn in record numbers.  It’s a scary time for a lot of ranchers but, if we don’t get a fire we should be OK for a while. 

Here’s sunrise at the solar water tank in one of the new pastures.

Pretty, isn’t it?  The red tinge to the sunrise was from all the smoke in the air.  We were there at O-Dark-Thirty to move yearlings from one pasture to the next.  We have to rotate them to a fresh pasture every month as the owner of the property is trying to encourage the sage grouse to raise their babies there. 

Steve and I were on the 4 wheeler bouncing through the sage brush and trying desperately not to start a fire.

 Other than that we have fought fire east of our place, worked in the garden, been to the Farmer’s Market and generally tried to stay cool.  And I have been tatting.

It is true I am a tatter & I have been on a major tatting kick lately.  Don’t know why – maybe because it’s just too damn hot to do anything else when you don’t have air conditioning!  So I’ve been tatting snowflakes, bookmarks, fall leaves, lace edging for a hankie and even a couple of doilies.  So basically my house is in tatters, my clothes are in tatters and the gardens are even a little tattered after the last batch of hail but what the heck!  Life is too short to sweat the small stuff – even in 100+ heat!  I’ll try to take some photos of all the tatting I’ve been doing for the next post. 

Until then, Stay Cool!!!


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When I downloaded the photos for the last post I found the photos I had taken on Sale Day and thought you’d like to see them. 

Sale Day is the day we sell our calves, yearlings and sometimes cows or bulls.  It can come on any day of the year and sometimes we have several Sale Days.  When you are a rancher, Sale Day is also one of the best days of the year.  I took the day off of work – which is easy to do when you have a boss that does the exact same thing.  My boss and I even coordinate our schedules so we both get to see our calves sell.  After all, when you’re a ranch wife, Sale Day is the social event of the season!

Around here Sale Day always starts early – ‘O-dark-thirty’.

I told you it was dark.  We were up and going by 4:00 am.  Do you see all those little white dots?  Those are the eyes of the cows reflected in the headlights. 

It’s sad to see the girls like this.  They are all bunched up in the corner waiting for their calves to come back.  They are good mamas.  The cows usually hang out here for a day or so and then they seem to forget what they’re waiting for and get on with the business of being a cow. 

The first stop on Sale Day was the corrals where we had one more cow to load in the trailer.  Now don’t feel bad for that old girl.  She got a private ride to the sale barn because she was a wild thing, full of piss & vinegar and she had done everything she could not to get on the truck with the other cattle.  She has been a challenge since the day we brought her home to the ranch and my hubby decided it was time to send ‘Alice’  packing before she ended up hurting someone. 

We had left her in the corrals over night with another cow – one that was a lot calmer, who we will call ‘Bess’.  It seemed to work.  Bess doesn’t get stirred up about anything, not even when a pickup and trailer back up to the corral at ‘O-dark’thirty’.  Bess just stood there, chewing her cud and checking out the lights and sounds. I imagine life could be rather boring for a cow as Bess really seemed to enjoy the activity.   ‘Alice’, on the other hand, eyed everything with a healthy dose of suspicion but since her girlfriend, Bess wasn’t concerned Alice decided it must be OK.  We opened the door on the trailer and flipped the lights on inside and Hubby directed the two old girls to the gate.  Bess took one look around and stepped right into the trailer, followed closely by Alice who was starting to snort and blow snot.  But, since nothing scary happened (and there was nothing to eat inside) Bess turned around and calmly walked out, letting me shut the door in Alices’ face. 

Here’s the trailer all lit up with a rather pissed-off Alice inside.  Check out the Moooood lighting inside.  Ha!  Ranch humor.

Alice was locked and loaded – literally.  It was much easier than the day before when we had tried to do the same thing .  That day Alice went through the fence (twice), ripped off the gate, took off at top speed across the pasture and then, when Hubby (and the horse he was riding) politely asked her to return, she put down her head and charged them (several times).  Now you can see why Hubby was determined that Alice make it to her date at the sale barn.

And speaking of the sale barn – here we are:

Belle Fourche Livestock Exchange 

Belle Fourche is pronounced ‘Bell Fooch’ and it’s the name of a town, a river and just about everything else in that country.  It is a French name and means ‘Beautiful Fork’ because of the fork in the river there.  I guess if you have nice flatware you could have a whole set of belle fourches.  HA!  Give me a break – it’s early.

Anyway, here’s a few of our calves.  The guy in the green shirt is the auctioneer doing his job trying to get the buyers to bid.  When they bring in the first batch of calves the auctioneer always stops to say a few words – he names the ranch where the cattle are from, asks if the rancher is there and then asks a few questions or makes a comment or two on how nice the calves look.  Then he kicks it into high gear and starts asking for bids.

From this photo it doesn’t look like there were many buyers around – see all the empty seats, but they were there and prices were high and our calves were looking good.  That is a good combination for us.  The bigger ones almost always bring less money per pound but they also have more pounds.  Our prices ranged from $1.02 per pound to $1.58 a pound.  These prices were towards the high-end for that day although there were some calves that brought $1.87 per pound.  We had yearlings that weighed over 800 pounds and calves that weighted between 400 – 600 pounds each.  Last year we were lucky to get over a dollar a pound for anything but prices have improved lately and from everything we’ve heard people believe they will stay up.

It’s always nerve-racking sitting there waiting but this year things came together and it was a good day.

Here’s a few more calves.  Check out that rather large boot on the railing – that’s our baby, Morgan.  He got the day off too so he could go.  I told you Sale Day is a big event.

And more calves.  It goes on like this until all the calves and yearlings we brought had sold.  Suddenly, it’s done and we sit and watch the next ranchers calves come in.  Our calves ended up going to 5 different places, some went to other ranches as replacement heifers and some went to feed lots to be finished – fattened up before ending up in a butcher shop.  That’s the cattle business.

We picked up our pay check and then headed 20 miles out-of-town to visit our son Dalton and his wife Dani at the ranch where they work.  It was a great day but very long. 

On another subject, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while you may remember a post I did last January titled Sun Spots.  I have always had a thing about sun spots or ‘orbs’ showing up in my photos and I watch for them.  When I tried to lighten up the photos for this post I was surprised to find this:

I know these aren’t sun spots because the sun wasn’t even close to coming up yet.  I supposed they could be snow crystals in the air but it wasn’t snowing and look at the ground – there wasn’t any snow to blow around.  I rmember it was a very still morning but if you look at the photo you can see that there is frost on the hood of the pickup.  So who knows?  The spot that really got me was the bright spot right beside one cows face.  It even showed up before I had lightened the shot.


This photo only shows a few spots even though it was taken right after the previous one and this photo only has one:

I’m not sure why we get these orbs in some photos but I will keep watching for them.  Well, I better get busy.  There’s still a lot to do before Christmas!

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Wow – 3 posts in less than a week!  That’s got to be some kind of record for me but don’t get too excited, my life usually isn’t like this.  There is just so much going on right now that I want to share. 

Like today – we worked cattle. 

It’s that time of year when we sort off the calves, preg check the cows and decide how many are going to the sale barn.  I took two days off of work – one so I could help today and one more for tomorrow so I could go to the sale barn at Belle Fourche, SD. 

Here’s a few photos of todays adventure:

Selling calves is a pretty big deal in our family.  Our son, Morgan took off from work too.  When the boys were young we would even take them out of school to go to the sale.  When you’re born into the family ranch you’re part of the business from the very beginning. 

As you can see from this photo we prefer cattle that are easy to handle.  Of course they’re not all as curious as this one.

First we sorted the calves and yearlings off of the cows.  These are our girls.  Dr. Pete showed up at 9:00 am to preg check them and this year we came out really good – only 5 of the girls aren’t pregnant and they are probably the ones who had late calves.  Sometimes we sell the cows who are ‘open’ (not pregnant) rather than feed them all winter with no hope of a calf but since these are all really nice cows (good-looking and nice to handle) we will keep them.  There is also the chance that since we ended up with 7 late calves last spring these cows may be pregnant but just a month or two behind the others.  Having late calves can be a hassel but we usually end up keeping the little ones and then selling them in the spring as heavy calves or else the next fall as yearlings.

This is our hydraulic chute.  My brother-in-law, Scott built it and it works great. 

The yellow stick with the red ‘paddle’ on the end is a Rattle Paddle – a sorting stick that makes noise when you shake it.  They work well for sorting cattle and they’re kind of fun too.

Hubby and Paul run the cows into the chute, Morgan ran the chute,  Dr. Pete preg checked (a job – no one else wants to do) and I applied the pour-on pesticide.  And good news – since I’m kind of messy there’s a pretty good chance that I won’t have to worry about round worms, lung worms, grubs, horn flies, sucking and biting lice, and sarcopic mange mites for a while.  Wa Hoo!

The girls even seemed impressed with the new hay trailer Hubby built.

We have some of the best looking calves we’ve ever had this year.


Once we finished with the cows we sorted the calves out of the yearlings, did a couple of quick counts and then pulled a couple more small calves out of the bunch and turned them back with their mamas.

 All the cattle are looking good.

Here’s that batch of skinny yearlings we bought last spring.  They have put on a lot of weight this summer. 

Maggie got put to work too.  This is her ‘Come hither and unsaddle me’ look.

And this was our last helper – Steve.  Steve is Morgan’s new puppy.  He’s pretty young but he’s learning.  He doesn’t like the cold weather very much but he sure looks stylish in the cut off sleeve of my old sweat shirt.

By 2:30 the truck had arrived and our calves and yearlings were loaded.  A 2 hour drive to Belle and they should be settled into a couple of pens and ready for the sale in the morning. 

Sale day is always the best.  This is the day we work toward all year.  Prices have been up this year so we’ll hope for the best and see what happens.  But the best thing about sale day this year is that Morgan will be going with us and we’ll also get to see Dalton & Dani too.  I’ll be sure to take some pictures.

And of course Steve will be there too – he’s quite the social little creature even if he isn’t to fond of chasing cattle yet. 

“No.  I will not come out from under this snuggly blanket to chase cows!”



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I try to be organized.  I really do.  But for some unknown reason things never seem to work out the way I plan.  Take today for instance.

Every day I start a list.  I figure if I write it down – it will get done.  (I know, it’s a flawed theory but its the best I have right now).   I’m sure that if I could just finish 2 or 3 things after work every night sooner or later I would start to see progress.  So every day I write down the three most important things that need to be done.  I try to be smart about it.  I never put down big jobs like clean the garden shed, weed the entire veggie garden and finish the livingroom floor.  The jobs must be simple ones that I can actually accomplish.  Here’s today’s list:

1.  Bake a pound cake for the company that’s coming tomorrow.

2.  Water in the greenhouse.

3.  Weed around the hoop house.

That doesn’t sound so bad does it?  It’s not like I’m asking for the moon, right? I should be able to finish these items without even breaking a sweat especially since I have roughly 4 hours from the time I get home until it’s too dark outside to see. 

 It should have worked…  but it didn’t.

4:30 pm – The office closed – I ran for the door.  First stop – I needed to water at the Community Garden.  Our building is in charge of one plot where we are raising veggies for the Local Food Pantry.   I drove across town, watered and pulled a few weeds then headed for the pickup while I called Morgan, my baby, who has been sick again with tonsil problems and full-blown strep throat.  Since I had to stop at the grocery store for milk anyway I thought I’d see if there was anything he needed.  He didn’t need much just milk, hot dogs and Ramen noodles (the breakfast of Champions).  So I hurried into the grocery store, grabbed a small basket and zipped through in record time.  I was feeling good!!!  I was on track and I still had plenty of time.

I dropped off Morgan’s items at his house and headed for home – radio blaring and the windows rolled down.  Life was good.  Just like Wonder Woman I felt like I could do it all.

 And then I turned down the driveway…

 and saw the road blocked by a huge mass of black cows…

all congregated at the cattle guard (gate)…

and bawling at Hubby who was in the Ford pickup on the other side of the fence.  He was tearing across the field and kicking up dust as he tried to chase off a few cattle who had managed to get through the fence and were in the process of tearing apart the newly made hay bales. 

I took a deep breath. 

OK, I am Wonder Woman.  I can handle this and still get everything done.

I parked my pickup, jumped out and went to grab the broom in the back.  Just ask any ranch wife what is the best stick to drive cattle and 99.5% will tell you it’s a broom.  They are light weight and for some reason they look impressive to wild bovine.  Personally, I think it’s because of the wide bristle end.  If you didn’t know any better you would swear that thing would hurt when it hit you.  Anyway, I reached for my trusty broom but horrors of horrors it was gone!  Nothing in the back except a long-handled shovel and the spare tire.  Then I remembered – I had left the broom in Nadine (the world’s cutest camper). 

Rats!  No broom – but never fear – I am Wonder Woman!  I can drive cattle with my bare hands.

I took off around the herd of cattle, climbed the fence and jumped in the Ford with Hubby.  We roared across the field chasing the escaped cattle.  But cattle are evil and they love to split off and run circles, ducking and dodging like a welter-weight boxer, moving so quickly that the pickup couldn’t keep up.  Hubby stopped long enough for me to get out and start walking then together we drove them on toward the gate.  

Things were going well…  at least for a while but one nasty old cow in the bunch had obviously seen this strategy before.  She looked at me with one eyebrow cocked and at that moment I could read her mind.  “This ain’t my first rodeo, Honey!”  She flipped her tail high in the air and took off cross-country out of the field and across the pasture just like Richard Petty headed for the checkered flag.

But I didn’t give up for I am Wonder Woman!

I kicked it into high gear, running across the pasture, watching for snakes and cactus and jumping large prairie dog holes that would break a leg.  You should have seen me!  I didn’t know I could still run.  It felt good.  I wasn’t just jogging – I was running flat-out.  I was on a mission and 1500 pounds of ground round was no match for me.  I caught her and turned her and her gang of idiot yearlings.  It was impressive.  We got them through the fence and on their way to greener pastures.  And even after stopping to fix the fence I knew there was still enough time to finish the items on my list. 

 I am Wonder Woman!

I got to the house, put the groceries away, cleaned the kitchen like a crazy woman and mixed up a pound cake.  With the pound cake in the oven I had time to spare so I grabbed a boxed cake mix and whipped up a batch of cupcakes just for good measure.  I set the timer then the dogs and I ran to the hoop house.  I lowered the sides and started pulling weeds but it was growing dark so fast that I decided it was more important to water in the greenhouse instead.  I shut the door and ran for the hose then watered till it got too dark to see. 

OK – 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.  I am still Wonder Woman but I’m pretty sure the timer has gone off and the cupcakes are done so I whistled for the dogs and ran for the kitchen door.  The dogs beat me to the step and just as Dally jumped to the landing I heard a familiar buzz by the corner of the step –


I shoved the dogs inside and slammed the door behind them then ran to the pickup and grabbed the long-handled shovel.  Very carefully, I tried to find the pissed off snake in the plants by the step.  It was a little nerve-racking but he was buzzing like crazy so I could almost pin point where he was.  He struck at the shovel, I pinned him but it wasn’t a good catch so I tried again and he struck at me again.  I caught him again but couldn’t cut him in half.  We went round and round but I knew Hubby is on his way – I could hear the pickup coming back from checking cows so I decided to just hold him down and wait for the Calvary to arrive.  It was a good idea but instead of stopping Hubby drove right past our house and headed to the chicken coop by the barn to shut up the chickens. 

I took another deep breath.  It’s OK – I am still Wonder Woman but I’m pretty sure I never saw her with a pissed off snake at the end of a shovel while the oven timer buzzed on the other side of the door and two demented dogs watched through the glass door.  Ten minutes later my hands were numb from clutching the shovel and the snake was really mad.  I could smell the aroma of burnt cupcakes and pound cake when Hubby finally pulled into the driveway.  Of course, he parked on the other side of the house and then let the truck run so he could listen to the end of the weather report!  I yelled at him but he couldn’t hear me.  I screamed at him but he still didn’t hear.  Finally, he shut off the truck and stepped out where he could hear me yelling at the top of my lungs.  Five minutes later the 4 foot long rattlesnake had lost his head and Hubby handed me the rattles as a prize – 11 rattles and a button – the biggest one we’ve seen this year. 

Hubby also brought the news that the cattle have gotten through the fence again and are back in the field we just chased them out of.   Auhhhhhhhhhhhh!

I glared at him before turning to see what was left of the burnt offerings in the oven then took a few well-deserved moments to beat my head against the wall.

As for my list – I did water in the greenhouse but I have not weeded around the hoop house.  The cupcakes and pound cake are a little dark but I guess they will do and thankfully no one got bit by the snake.  It’s now midnight.  I’m tired, dirty and the kitchen’s a mess and I’m pretty sure I’m further behind now then I was when I left the office at 4:30. 

It’s too hard to be Wonder Woman.  I wasn’t cut out for this.  I have decided to turn in my crown, tall boots and lariat.  I will trade them in on something I could really use like a super loud voice that carries for miles and is one that Hubby could always hear no matter where he is.  That would certainly be something I could use.  So from now on I will aspire to be a woman with the voice of a super hero…  like the gal who won the International Hog Calling Contest a couple of years ago.  She’s my new hero. 

Sorry Wonder Woman.

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Spring is definately here and at this ranch that means it’s time to buy yearlings.


Yearlings are last years calves.  We buy them in the spring, fatten them up all summer and sell them in the fall once they have put on a bunch of weight.

Years ago we kept our calves through the winter and then sold them as yearlings but after several years of drought when we were not able to cut and bale the hay we normally would, we ended up having to buy hay.  Buying hay at $80 – $100 per ton is expensive so we had to adapt our operation.  Now we sell the calves in the fall and buy yearlings in the spring and it has worked pretty well.

The trick is to buy them skinny & cheap and sell them fat & expensive.  It’s the best way to sell the grass in our pastures.

Usually we get several loads of yearlings and they are always black or black (with) white-faces but this year we seem to be ending up with an odd assortment of colors and sizes.

Of course we have black Angus and black white-faced but we also have one that appears to have blood lines going back to a Holstein which is a dairy breed and even a couple that are Longhorn cross.

I’m thinking this will be an interesting summer.

Amongst this mixture we also have heifers (females who haven’t had a calf yet), steers (males that have been castrated) and even a few bulls (that after this weekend are now steers).  Sorry guys.

This is our propane branding stove.  It was built by Hubby and it works well to heat the irons.  It has even been used to brew a mean pot of cowboy coffee on occasion – and I do mean ‘MEAN’.  It is often said that a horseshoe has to be able to stand upright in the dark, murky brew before it can be considered cowboy coffee but I think it also has to be strong enough to dissolve the horseshoe – at least that’s how strong Hubby makes it.

We have at least 3 brandings every spring.  One for the yearlings and any cows and bulls we purchase that year, another for the new calves born that year and  usually one more small branding in early summer for any late calves that happen to show up ‘after the party’.

We have had branding days that were huge parties with lots of people and mountains of food but the ones I like best are the ones where just our family can handle it – maybe with the help of one or two neighbors who happen to show up and decide to stick around.  Saturday was one of those days.

We hadn’t planned on branding.  Silly me – I had mapped out a whole weekend full of stuff I needed to get done.  I was even planning on making it to a garden club meeting.  It’s been so long since I’ve been to one of those that I’m sure half the members have decided I must have left the country or passed on to the great garden in the sky.  Yep, I had stuff stacked on the kitchen table ready to go and a list a mile long of what I needed to do but at 10:30 Friday night our son, Dalton and his wife, Dani called.  They were headed our way and would be home in about an hour – that’s when the wheels in Hubby’s mind started spinning.  Morgan, our youngest son was already planning on being at the ranch Saturday and any rancher knows that when you have that much help show up you automatically start to think about what you can get done.  For us, it was an easy choice.  Last week we had hauled home the first two loads of yearlings.  They were in the corrals just waiting for a day dry enough to brand.

It didn’t matter that it has rained for 2 weeks straight or that the mud in the corrals is roughly deep enough to bury a sports car to its hood ornament in or that none of the kids knew we were going to put them to work.  No, what really mattered was whether or not the rain would stop long enough to let the yearlings hides dry out so we could get a good clear brand on them. 

Now I know some people are upset by the thought of branding livestock but since the beginning of ranching it has always been the best way to prove who owns what.  Don’t think that the days of cattle rustling are over – far from it.  I talk to people every day who have lost cattle to sticky fingered individuals and without a brand it’s very hard to identify an individual cow, calf or even bulls.  One couple I know came up short 12 pairs (cow and calf) on their summer pasture last year.  That adds up to over $25,000.00 worth of livestock missing and this is something you can’t buy insurance for.  Their cattle were branded but in eastern South Dakota the sale barns do not inspect brands so more than likely that’s where they ended up going.  Branding doesn’t stop all rustling but at least it slows down some of it.   Since the easiest thing to steal are slick calves (ones that aren’t branded) you might as well just hang a sign around their neck that says ‘Take me – I’m yours’. 

It’s sad but true.  So we brand.

As luck would have it, Saturday morning we woke up to a short lapse in the rain so we drug out the branding irons and got to work.

Morgan ran the hydraulic chute and branded.  He’s good at running the chute – he misses very few if any and that helps save a lot of time and cussing as you have to gather up the ones that manage to ‘squirt’ through the chute.  It ususally takes several tries to run them back into the corral and through the chute a second time.  Morgan’s also pretty quick with an iron – the hotter the iron the faster you can get the job done.

Dani grew up on horseback but not around cattle so she’s still kind of new to branding but this time she was in charge of changing out all the old ear tags and replacing them with new ones.  I think this is only the 2nd or 3rd branding Dani has ever been to but she’s not afraid to try something new.  Each yearling received a nice orange tag with a number in the left ear and a treated ‘fly’ tag in the right ear.  These fly tags will help keep the insects off of them through the summer.  Tagging can be a ‘snotty’ job but Dani is great about jumping right in and getting to work.

Dalton, Dan, our neighbor Paul and I usually end up doing whatever else needs to be done – pushing cattle into the chute, vaccinating, applying pour-on treatments for pests, keeping written records, taking photos, running for supplies and in this case de-horning the Longhorn cross steers.

And even Dally – Morgan’s new pup helped out by running cattle in and then staying out of the way while we worked.  She’s not even 6 months old but she’s smart and learning quick.

Having big crews to help is fun but personally I’ve missed out on a lot on those branding days because my job was always inside – cooking the meal.  I’m actually a pretty good cook but I’ll freely admit that the kitchen is not where I want to be.  Times have changed and I’ve gotten smarter.  Now I prepare everything in advance and as far as I’m concerned, crock pots and slow roasters are a gals best friends.  I’m proud to say I have mastered the art of cooking on auto-pilot and I would trade my stove in a heartbeat for the sight of my saddle on a good horse and the smell of burnt hair in my face.

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