When our calves are about a day old, we head out to tag them. Our process is pretty simple- tag the left ear if it’s a heifer, right if it’s a bull. The Rancher just told me, “Just remember HEFT and BRIGHT and you’ll always have it right.” Wow… The tag number matches the cow’s number so that we can keep the pairs straight. I wish cows could read so they would know which baby was theirs…
Every ranch has their own thing when it comes to tagging. On the ranch that I grew up on we had the sire (the bull) number and the cow number on the tag with the calf’s number. There were different colored tags depending on the breed of calf. It made it quick and easy to know just who that calf was. There are lots of other ways ranchers use their tags to mark their cattle.
When we tag bulls, we also castrate them. We use an elastrator to do the job. Sounds high tech, right? It’s not. It just stretches the rubber band like elastic (they actually look like a green cheerio) so that we can get it over the scrotum. You hear all sorts of names for the elastics- bands, cheerios, and my favorite… goonie whoppers! The younger a calf is when it is castrated, the better they will handle and recover from the stress. For the most part, using the elastrator is stress free because it slowly pinches off the blood supply to the testes.
Going out to tag is a one man job, but if you have two it’s certainly easier (and brining kids along just makes it extra exciting). One guy drives the 4 wheeler and the other grabs the calf. When I go out with The Rancher, it’s my job to catch the calf. The Rancher brings over the supplies and gets to work. He checks the gender, tags, and castrates the bulls. That’s it.
If The Rancher’s Sidekick comes, he usually has his rope and in the time it takes to tag the calf, he’s got him tied up. It’s had to convince him that he doesn’t have to rope EVERY calf… The Ranch Princess hangs out on the 4 wheeler trying to get it to go… I’m pretty sure that she has figured all but the gas out. We might have to start turning it off when we stop. Who knows where she would drive!
Tagging only takes a few minutes for us on the ranch, but they are moments well spent. The Rancher gets his calves marked, the kids have their fun, and I feel like a helpful rancher wife again!