Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cattle ID

Cowboy V often manages his cattle by walking and watching.
The cattle operator, Cowboy V, brought another load of cattle to the Dipper Ranch on Wednesday.  For once, I was around.  The sky was overcast and sometimes sprinkling, but unloading the cattle was easier than I expected, and certainly easier than rounding them up.  I didn't help much, but I did ask lots of questions and took photos.

Cowboy V backed the trailer to the opened corral gate.  Then he opened the trailer gate, and the calves came tumbling out and scampered on hooftips through the chute.

He walked them around the corral a few times to check them over and then guided them out the corral gate to Pasture 1.

As the calves first come on the new grazing land, they poke around and there's a lot of frolicking, heel kicking, and head butting.  Later on, they get down to serious grazing.

Cattle are marked with a unique brand to distinguish their owner, protect lifestock from theft and help with identification of strays.  A brand can occur on the left or right hip, rib, shoulder or cheek, and sometimes, the right or left ear are also marked in a distinct pattern as part of the brand.  The California Bureau of Livestock Identification as a good illustration of branding locations on their "Application for Brand" found here.

Brands are usually applied with a hot iron to singe the hair and first layer of skin as a permanent mark.  Cowboy V marks his cattle on the left shoulder with a combined V F bar for Vince Fontana.  When he delivers the cattle to the Dipper Ranch, their brand may be a few weeks old and still scabbing over.

Some of his cattle have the left ear tip clipped or they have a dewlapped right ear, or the ears aren't marked.  I'm thinking the ear marks are from the various sources he buys young calves, and not part of his brand.  I will have to ask him next time I see him.  He's patient with my questions.

Here's a link to website showing branding of cattle on the original Big Dipper Ranch owned by the Cummings family.  The Alpine Road corral shown in the photos at that website is the same corral shown here.  I think this website was created by a longtime local rancher whose family formerly participated in those branding days.  I am glad they saved those photos and posted them with vivid descriptions.  There's an old building on the lower part of the property that has burn marks of the Big Dipper constellation on it.  I am guessing that is where they heated and tested the original branding irons.

Sometimes, you see a paper number on the back or hip of cattle; these are tags temporarily stuck on to keep track of cattle in an auction or stockyard for the buyer and seller.  Cattle may also have numbered tags in their ears or plastic button tags to keep track of breeding, vaccinations or other doctoring.

Zip the cowdog was surely busy earlier in the day during roundup.
At the corral, the cattle release themselves, so Zip guards the truck.
See Also:

California Department of Food and Agriculture, Bureau of Livestock Identification

Cowboy Showcase discourse on Brands

1 comment:

  1. Nice article, it was a pleasure to read. Looks like Zip is about to take a nap after a long day...

    Livestock Auction Traceability Initiative


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