‘Brand’ New Experiences

We have a guest staying with us….oops; he gets offended when I call him a guest.

We have a non related family member staying with us this week.  We met him last summer when our son was involved in a 4-H exchange with kids from PEI. Taylor came to stay with us for 10 days, and our son went to stay with Taylor in PEI for 10 days.  It was a great opportunity for the kids to do some travelling and make new friends.

Taylor is a great guy.  (I have to say this because he reads our blog).

All kidding aside, he’s so much fun to have around.  His life experiences are in some ways the same as our boys’ and in some ways different.  That diversity makes for truly interesting conversations and opportunities for us to learn from each other.  For example, he can teach us how to speak French or how to cook mussels, and we can teach him how to shoot gophers and ride horses.

This week Taylor has been immersed in the Western farming/ranching lifestyle, which is something that he hasn’t experienced a lot of in the past.  It’s eye opening sometimes to see his reaction to the things that we take for granted.  Like castrating bull calves for example….or my nonchalance at picking up the dead chicken that my dog killed, throwing it in the back of a truck and going inside to make a sandwich.  Yes I washed my hands, and yes I disciplined the dog….but she’s pregnant and you know – hormones can make you do crazy things sometimes.


We were so excited that Taylor would be able to experience a neighbor’s branding party with us.  Branding is one of the highlights of summer for many of us.  It’s a chance to get together with friends, get some work done, and enjoy each other’s company when the day is over.

Kind of like what I imagine a barn raising might have been years ago.

Some people are disturbed by the thought of branding.  Does it hurt the calf?  Yes.  Does it hurt the calf for long?  No.  Branding is the one and only way to identify your cattle from someone else’s.  Tags can be removed. Tattoos are missed, or blur over time making them difficult to impossible to read.  Without exception, when cattle come to the auction market, they are identified by their brands, and the cheque will go to the person who legally owns the cattle bearing their brand.  We have had cows stolen from us.  Their calves weren’t branded.  We had no recourse for compensation on those calves.  We had a cow stray into a neighbors pasture.  We assumed she was dead.  5 years later she turned up in an auction market and we were paid for her.  Branding works. 

A securely held calf makes branding faster and more clear

These calves are roped to be branded.  It’s faster that way.  We have used the method where they are walked one by one onto a table, but that takes much longer.  The calves are stressed when they are separated from the cows, and the faster we can get this over with the happier and less stressed they are.  Roping cuts the time that the cows and calves are separated by at least ½.

A good strong roping horse.

While they are roped, the calves are given a quick health check, branded, vaccinated and given CCIA identification tags.  These tags have a microchip in them so that the movement of all cattle in Canada can be tracked from the farm they were born on, through any sales and on to the packing plant where they are processed into meat.  This is a step that Canadian ranchers have taken to help ensure the safety of the food that we eat.  It is illegal to cut out one of these tags, they are in the calf’s ear for it’s lifetime…. (Ideally).

Putting in the ear tag

The vaccine is to prevent common diseases that cattle are exposed to, including many different strains of pneumonia and diarrhea.  We want healthy cattle.  Healthy cattle = healthy herds = healthy food = healthy economy for the farmers, the buyers, the packing plants and the grocery stores. 

Vaccinating the calf against disease.

Each calf is roped and on the ground being handled for approximately 2 to 3 minutes.  As soon as possible, the calf is let go and he runs back to his cow, who will walk with him away from the commotion and they will go back to grazing and acting like nothing ever happened.

Vaccinated, tagged, branded and healthy.

After a few hours of work, we all sit at tables together where we share some fantastic food and tell stories and lies and joke about the day.

It’s all over for another year.  We are so happy thatTaylor’s visit this year was timed so that he could be part of a branding crew.  It’s our hope that he learned something new about where Canadian beef comes from and some of the work that it takes to grow it, but if nothing else he’s got some good stories and a little cow poop on his shoes to take back to PEI with him later this week.

A beautiful view at the end of the day.

Our blog will feature a few stories ofTaylor’s visit to the prairies this week.  He’s a good sport and has taken some great pictures for us to use, as well as sharing some yummy new PEI recipes!  Stay tuned.

 **All photo credit goes to Taylor from PEI**

“Tomorrow is the most important thing in life.  Comes to us at Midnight very clean.  It’s perfect when it arrives and puts itself in our hands.  It hopes we’ve learnt something from yesterday.”   – Inscribed on John Wayne’s headstone.



3 responses to “‘Brand’ New Experiences

  1. Taylor Arsenault

    Great Story!! Enjoying my time as your ”guest”!

  2. I like that you spared the dog – being pregnant also I can relate! Great article!

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