Branding Day: Big Bad Business

 Getting it done right

Last week was the week for castrating the bulls and injecting all the cattle with hormone pellets.

I never enjoy these tasks. The bulls and cows of course don’t enjoy the experience and they get anxious and restless and they make a ton of noise and a giant mess.

They piss and crap all over everywhere, partly because that’s just what they do but also because stress seems to bring it all out of them.  Here are some general tips on stress management for animals.

We take all week to do it. We can run one herd through per day, and I break up our total head count into five herds.

But they’re long days, I tell ya.

This way is a bit more humane.

We first round the whole herd up into a fenced area and then we bring them into a holding yard that has parallel bars set up with just enough space between the bars for one cow to fit.

They come out of the holding yard and go single file between those parallel bars, which lead up to the yard where we do the deeds.

Oh, I forgot to add that in besides the hormones and the castrating, we also brand the cows. It’s just one long day of joy for these poor animals.

So anyway they come out of the chute into a stanchion where they’re basically clamped so they can’t move.

And that’s where all the deeds happen simultaneously. We’ve got three guys on each animal. Or sometimes a gal. The gals really don’t dig these days but if I’m shorthanded, I’ll call one in.

So one guy stands at the head. The hormone pellets get injected in the ear, just under the skin. It comes out of a gun that has a needle that has to be poked just right under the skin on the underside of the ear.

At the other end is a guy with a set of clipper-type things, and this is what the lucky bulls get castrated with.

And then the third guy has the branding iron. You’d think that maybe all three would try to do their deed at the same time, but it never happens that easily.

The person injecting the hormone pellet usually tries to get that in right away. By the time the castrating and branding is happening, the poor beast is swinging his head around and spit is flying everywhere.

It’s really hard at that point to grab the ear, let alone position the gun just right to get the pellet injected under the skin.

The whole process actually goes pretty quickly, especially when you have experienced hands doing each procedure. But it can be a messy affair. Like I said earlier, the stress of it can make the cows piss and crap right there in the stanchion.

As you can imagine, it doesn’t take too many cows doing that before the guys are knee-deep in crap (slight overstatement there). Which then requires a fourth guy to do clean-up duty.

When the animal is unclamped, it lumbers off to join the other stressed-out beasts.

We feed them well after that to help make up for the discomfort of the day.

I also make sure all the hands are fed well because nobody like those days!

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