DB-0090723 #OUTPOST66

DB –– OUTPOST № 66
 •    7 MIN


I am a fifth generation Wyoming cattle rancher. The images from this branding are meaningful because we’re branding in the same spot my great grandparents used to.

Growing up, I would hear everyone talking about “The Old Miller Brandings,” and how wild they used to be. They used to wrangle in all the horses, the good and bad alike. It was first come, first pick. Everyone would arrive in the middle of the night to choose their mount. They started gathering the cows while it was still dark in hopes of fooling the cows into the corral before it was light enough see. Everyone says there would be bronc rides for the whole gather... of course things have changed since then. While growing up we never even branded in this particular summer pasture, and still most everything is branded at the home places. So when we began leaving the first calves to brand in the summer, I was excited to brand in the place that holds so many stories.

Everyone now trailers their own mounts and instead of building a fire to heat the irons, we use a propane stove. Branding has changed, but we still have people helping us who remember “The Old Miller Brandings,” and occasionally we might get a story from those who used to attend long ago.

I’m a full-time cattle rancher, and part-time photographer. All the calves go through this process once, and it is usually a community event. All the neighbors help brand our calves, and we help them brand theirs. We get a lot of calves done in a short amount of time and then continue onto other projects the rest of the year.

can you explain the importance of cattle branding and its’ benefits?

It is permanent visible ownership identity. Brands help protect against cattle thieving, helps with traceability, and identifies who owns the livestock. Traceability helps with disease outbreaks, and it’s important to have easy, unmistakable identification of cattle while in the pasture. Especially if running cattle in common with nearby ranches.

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Man tieing calf's feet together to brand
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Man heading calf to brand

when did you start branding calves?

Typically for our area we start calving in April and will start branding in May. The calves we are branding here were born in April to first calf heifers.

Can you describe the process of branding cattle from start to finish?

The method used to brand cattle depends on the ranch. Everyone has their own preference that works well for them and their crew. There are nordforks, calf tables, heeling to wrestle, necking to wrestle or heading and heeling. The time it takes depends on the crew, the method used and how many calves are being branded.

How do you head and heel?

For head and heel brandings, the first thing everyone will do is gather cattle to the branding pen. Some people sort them out, but we leave hiefers in to keep the calves calmer. The crew is then split for ropers and ground help (the ropers and ground crew will take turns roping and being afoot). Once the irons are hot and the vaccine is mixed, the ropers begin. One person will rope a calf by the neck and drag it toward the stoves, another person will follow the calf and heel it. The ground crew will then lay the calf down and set the head rope on both front feet holding the rope until the roper gets it tight. Someone will also check the heel rope ensuring both feet are caught, re-setting the rope if necessary and holding it tight to allow the roper to get closer if they desire. The horses then hold the calf down while it receives its vaccines, brand, ear mark, and for the bull calves, get castrated.

What type of footwear is best for branding?

Comfortable boots, that’s why Durango® Boots are perfect. They allow you to ride and work the ground with ease.

how do you ensure the well-being of yourself and your team?

At every branding, everyone is cautious to protect the branding stove to keep a calf from running through the propane lines. Otherwise, everyone is just attentive of their surroundings and quick to help where needed. In a head and heel branding, good rope handlers are essential to keeping everyone and all the calves safe.

What are some of the challenges you face?

Some of the stress factors of putting on a branding are preparing the meal. Planning food that will be satisfying and yet fast to serve, especially after helping all day. You never know what time you will be done or the exact amount of people who will come. Thankfully for me, most of our branding meals are done by my mom. You also need the right amount of vaccine, a corral that will hold the calves, propane tanks full and for many of us the help of some good neighbors. And then you have to pray for good weather, because if the calves are too wet you cannot keep the irons hot enough to brand.

What keeps you passionate about what you do?

The livestock, the land and the people. I love the animals, deeply appreciate the land, and value the ranching community.

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Durango® Lady Rebel Pro™ boot in stirrup.
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Durango® Rebel Pro™ boot in stirrup.
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