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AMY KIRK: The two-week long branding day

Amy Kirk

Just because we got our calves branded recently doesn't mean we're done branding. We have to mull the day over for a couple more weeks and analyze the big event in detail.

0 Talk about it

Branding and vaccinating our calf crop is a big and important event for us and even though the work doesn't take long to do when there's plenty of help, it is still a stressful day that needs time to be properly decompressed afterwards. As soon as our branding is over and everyone's gone home, we begin recapping all that happened. No detail goes unnoticed, and everything gets openly discussed later. Our tradition of post-branding assessment has become a major part of our annual springtime event. Once branding's behind us, it is then processed daily from every aspect and angle for days afterward. It's all part of the OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) and micromanaging that goes along with caring for our herd.

Part of the evaluation process is talking about the whole event, and we cover everything from bringing the herd into the corrals for sorting to the Rocky Mountain oysters that were cooked on the branding stove. We discuss how the gathering, sorting, branding and trailing pairs back to the pasture went, expressing our opinions about each of those tasks, then move on to talking about who stuck around for the dinner afterward and what was said about the meal. We bounce back and forth any applicable hindsight situations that arose before, during or after branding and exchange what problems occurred in the corral and in the kitchen. All branding-day related issues get dissected until we feel satisfied that we clearly understand the cause and effect of each problem.

Every day over our early morning coffee, Art and I rehash all over again, the different factors that made up our branding. This includes analyzing how the whole day went overall, who was there, how the crew did as a whole and individually, each branding day job, techniques used, the speed with which the tasks were done, the day's weather and who were the standouts; both those considered exceptional hands and those considered more hindrances to the work going smoothly. Our discussions include ample self-critiquing, analyzing and theorizing of how we did things and handled situations. Our conversations come full circle a couple of times as we re-evaluate everything again and add scrutiny to new things we hadn't covered yet.

When we run low on branding-day topics, we switch to theorizing on vaccination programs, branding irons, castration techniques and tools and the stress level of the calves on branding day -- and on the owners of the calves. Chats can be as elaborate as comparing and contrasting our systems for doing things with other brandings, and which ones appear more efficient and less stressful, before covering the pros and cons of using various branding equipment. Most conversations about our branding day eventually lead to stories of past brandings that were memorable for good and bad reasons.

Talking about a branding day for weeks after may seem ridiculous, but we've enjoyed having a new topic to analyze, theorize and talk about. After having spent every day for the past eight months discussing the world's longest winter, branding is a welcomed topic. (As I write this, snow is forecast for this day and the next.)