To the left is a photo of our brand carved into wood that hangs above our door. The E is for Ellis, my maiden (now middle) name. The P is for Perry. The 3 is for our three kids with the rafter representing a roof. Our brand is a visual representation of our family coming together because that's what this business is for us - a family operation through and through.
I know it's not everybody's favorite subject, but it's an important -and necessary- part of raising cattle... and when I started this blog, I said it would be to share my journey, not just market our product. So here it is, 5 things I learned on branding day.
(1) That thing ranchers say about branding causing minimal pain for the cow? It’s true. They can feel it, although most are already trying to run off anyway. Yet most of our steers reacted more to the simple vaccination (which we humans must suffer through too!) than they did to the branding iron. Some of them just chilled; others were more interested in getting back to their food than in whatever we were doing.
Branding essentially burns the hair on the outside of what is a very thick hide. It’s not burning off nerves and is in no way comparable to branding a human (which I know they do in the popular television series Yellowstone, but we at Perry Land & Cattle really do not recommend doing this. It’s just weird). But after a steer went missing last year, we don’t skip the branding anymore. A few missing beef cows for a rancher can be the difference between making it to the next year… and not.
(2) Cows do NOT, however, like waiting in line. And if they can get their head over the fence, they can get their whole body over it. Big and fat as beef cattle are, they’re about as nimble as a rabbit. As Justin’s ill-fated wrestling match with tag #2003 drew to its inevitable end, 2003 (now affectionately dubbed 007) jumped the fence, charged right at us, and cleared the branding irons, the table and the fire in one flying leap. I guess if someone wants to steal that one, they can; he got away with no brand… but good luck to you.
(3) There is nothing (and I mean nothing) sexier than watching your husband wrestle a 1,200 pound steer. He lost, but still…. it was impressive
(4) Cows learn from each other. After #2003 (now 007) hopped a fence, they all decided to give it a try. We’d sent most of the steers back to their regular spot to eat, but kept a couple in the alleyway to sort into a different part of the feed yard and increase their ration because… well… simply put, they were fatter. Closer to being ready for the table. I guess these two ninja-cows decided they didn’t like being left out because the next time we turned around, they had both gone over the fence and were happily munching on hay with the rest.
(5) Kids are nimble too. And it turns out they do listen. Despite our repeated warnings and reminders to get up a fence if a cow ever charges you, Kinley (7), Ollie (9), and Autumn (12) had helped us so many times without incident, I feared they were getting too comfortable. But when that steer charged, all three of them were up and over the fence before I could blink. The new problem is, our herd seems to have learned to climb fences... I guess we know what the Perry team is going to be working on for the next few weeks.
Alicia Perry, PhD, Owner/Operator and all around Hay Maven (see my blog post on the time I fell off a haystack...). I share industry insights, tips & tricks on grilling great beef, and my personal journey into the ranching world.