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Calf on the ground!

“Nobody ever drowned himself in sweat.”


Finally – it is spring! Birds singing, flower and garden planting, evening walks and vacation planning.

If your livelihood has anything to do with a cattle ranch though, you best hold up because spring is when the real work begins.

Cowmen spend all year turning pasture grasses into steaks to feed the public, and that beef has to be transported to where the meat processors and people are. The new additions to the herd have to be identified and this is done at the Spring branding.

In the early days of the great cattle drives, few fences blocked the route from Texas ranches to the rail heads north. Cowboys drove herds to central locations and the trail drives consisted of thousands of head from multiple outfits. Livestock branding was the only way to establish ownership.


Cortes was one of the first to bring fire branding to North America when he marked his Andulusian cattle from Spain with Three Christian Crosses. Today livestock identification is just as important even with miles of barded wire, and fire branding remains the most efficient.



In Texas, brands are registered with the county clerk in which the herd resides. The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raiser’s Association has become the nation’s largest brand recording and retrieval system. We pay a fee and register our brand, and post signs at property entrances. Special law enforcement Rangers, employed by the TSCRA, recover millions in stolen cattle for ranchers every year. Unfortunately, cattle rustling is a profitable business.




Cow hides are tough (try jamming a vaccine needle through that thick hair and skin). A red hot iron leaves an identifiable mark and the process is not “animal torture” as some believe. The new calves are on the ground for a few seconds, and during that short time they barely have time to take it all in. A crew of five or more ranch hands are flanking, holding, branding, vaccinating, inserting fly tags, and turning bulls to steers all at once. In the time it takes me to snap a few pictures, it’s over and flankers are on their feet ready for the next one. Branding crews work amazingly fast and the babies are back with their mommas in no time.



Natalie is a blogger and author of the fun, historical western TROUBLE IN TEXAS series for middle grades, the RESCUE ANIMAL eBook series, and is currently working on an action-packed novel for young adults, WOLF’S WAR. Read about Natalie’s grandmother and her cherry salad recipe, recently selected for “THE WESTERN WRITERS OF AMERICA COOKBOOK: Favorite Recipes, Cooking Tips, and Writing Wisdom” (TwoDot Publishing, June 2017). Find more information about her books here: Amazon Author Pages