Having 760 cows means that we have to find places for all of them, which means that we have groups spread out on the range. Some of them are on our own private ground but a good majority of them run with other ranches on the Association rangeland. And that means that when we go branding we have EVERYONE's cattle to brand!
The upside to this is that we have plenty of help to brand our calves, but that comes with the price of going out every weekend to brand (but that's a price we are so happy to pay). It takes a LOT of time to get so many calves branded!
The group that we run with has 7 different brands in the fire! With so many different operations running together, we want to make sure that we get it right on branding day. The ropers are limited to the ranch owners or other cowboy they designate. The ropers have to be good at finding a mothered up pairs and recognizing which brand it will need. Talk about pressure!
Not only do we need to make sure we get the right brand on the right calf, but each operation has its own vaccines and marks to do. Each ranch sets up their branding station and is responsible for doing their own ground work. If you want a job done right, I guess you do it yourself, right? Actually there are a lot of the men that have run together for YEARs and YEARS that would do a fine job of doing work on each others cattle. But for the sake of not confusing the help, we don't do too much crossover.
Since we are trying to get as many done as possible we don't use the Nord forks. The time a roper would be tied up is time that he could be roping, which is precious. So they drag in their calf, the ground crew pounces and mugs the calf. They slide the rope off to send the roper back to rope and then they get to work.
When you write it out and explain it, it sounds crazy and a lot of work. But after doing it for so long, its amazing how you just know what to do!