We live in real cowboy country, the West that you read about in books and see in movies. As tradition goes around these parts, neighbors and friends help each other during branding season.  Eager to witness the wildness of the West, we drove out to a nearby ranch to help some friends brand their cattle. Matthias didn't have a cowboy hat, but that didn't matter, he had work boots.

On our way out, it wasn't hard to see that spring was in the air... baby animals close to their mothers, mothers full of milk. The land was green and lush and there were wild flowers. It all seemed idyllic. 

I started dreaming about what it would like to live out on a ranch... until we got closer to the branding sight. The cattle seemed to be in a bit of a frenzy. Some were standing and staring at their young, some were running back and forth.  Then I heard the noise... the awful noise.

Of mothers crying for their babies. Oh, it was unsettling.

The branding was already under way, so Matthias jumped in and began wrestling cows. I watched and took photos to document the process. I was offered a chance to help out. No thank you I said.

This is how it went, Over and over. First you got to round 'em up.

Then you just grab one. Right by the leg. It takes brute force to drag them out. Oh my.
Then you have to get the cattle on their side for the actual branding. These cowboys flipped 'em real quick, and pinned them down. 

And then there was the smell. Of burning flesh. I really disliked the whole process, but this was really the worst. The ranchers assured me that the branding didn't hurt the animals, I however was not convinced. Here are the ranchers' brands. S&L.

On goes the S. Burning skin smells terrible.

On goes the L. Ouch.

And to add salt to their wound, as it seemed to me, they were stuck with a needle in the armpit and given a dose of antibiotics. The ranchers said it was all necessary, but I didn't know that cows got antibiotics this early in the process. I thought cows only received antibiotics once they got to the feed lots, because of the conditions they have to live in. This picture shows one of the helpers, a gal from our church who is actually a nurse, getting ready to give a shot. She told me she was doing it in the least painful way by pinching their skin and sticking the needle in at an angle. Aye yie yie.

And here is Bex observing from a distance.

To sum this little experience up, I hope I don't have to experience it again. On the flip side, a bonus for us it that we have easy access to buying a free range cow, that is if someone wants to go in on a cow with us.


ads said...

What an experience. Did it smell like burnt toast? Around the district office is a crematorium and every afternoon there, it smells like burnt toast. Gruesome, I know ! But, what fun, you do live in the wild west. Maybe, we can share butchering stories too sometime.

Anonymous said...

My father in law is in Wyoming right now on a hunting trip and he called this morning and raved and raved about the black mountains there. I'm not exactly sure what that means, but he has seen a porcupine and killed an antelope!!! I'd say he gives Wyoming a big thumbs up!!!

Anonymous said...

oops, this is WV Melissa by the way! so silly I am!

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