On TK Ranch our focus is on animal welfare and this affects the way we do things, including branding. Many ranches still do traditional community brandings that include roping, dragging, tying and hot iron branding their calves. These are opportunities for neighbours to help each other and make this very labour intensive task manageable. When done properly with skilled cowboys, traditional branding can be done very quickly — but the process is still stressful for the calves.
Instead of doing a traditional branding, we choose to spread out our branding activities over several days to focus on a less stressful approach. We gather our cattle the morning of the branding and separate the calves from their mothers in a holding pen. Each calf is then walked up a short alley into what is called a calf table — a device that restrains the animal and allows it to be laid flat. We then shave the area to be branded with clippers, spray it with rubbing alcohol and immediately apply a super-cooled branding iron for 30 seconds. Compared to a hot iron brand, the calf reacts very differently — there is little vocalization or struggling. The area that is frozen peels off in a few days and the hair grows in white. This makes the brand easily visible as seen below.
Why brand at all? Some might think branding is old fashioned and unnecessary, but being able to identify your animals is essential if they get mixed up with the neighbours’ or are stolen. In Alberta almost all cattle are sold through auction markets where every brand is inspected for ownership. If your animals aren’t branded, how can they be identified as yours once they have left your property? It’s easy to cut out ear tags, but branding is irrefutable evidence that you owned the animal at one time. Like most ranch families, we’d rather protect our assets. We just choose a more animal friendly approach.
Our hens are finally out on grass! Our soy-free eggs are available at our regular pick-up locations. $8/doz for extra large, $7/doz for large, and $6/doz for medium. They are in short supply; sorry! We have purchased more hens to try and increase production so please be patient and thanks!
Experience the breathtaking beauty of TK Ranch by following my husband Dylan’s photos on Instagram. He updates the site almost daily so you can keep in touch with what is happening here. We hope to develop calendars and sell framed prints in the future — so please stay tuned.