It is finally spring time in Nebraska! After a crazy winter, farmers and ranchers are ready to begin their spring work. Our cattle have all been at our house since early February as we calved. For ranchers around the state, it is time to get the cattle out to summer pasture. Before cattle are ready to go to grass, there are a few things that must happen. One major thing that happens on most ranches in the spring is branding.
Growing up, branding has always been my favorite time of year. It usually meant that I got to skip school for a day or two to come home and help out! Brandings are often great social events! Many neighboring ranchers come together to help each other get the job done. At a branding there are many things happening. Calves are getting branded as a way for ranchers to identify their cattle should they accidentally get into a neighboring pasture. Calves are also getting a shots. These shots are given to prevent the calves from getting sick on summer pasture. At the same time, the cows are often given shots too. The cows are given shots to help them breed over the summer with a calf for next year. Branding day is a fun yet tiring day. Getting to work with the neighbors and joke around all day is great but by the end of the day everyone is ready for some supper and a place to sit down for a while.
Once all of the calves have been branded and given their shots and the cows have had their shots, it is time to take everyone to grass. On our family ranch, we have to haul the cattle 20 miles from home to summer pasture. The day we haul is another crazy day. Many of our neighbors bring their pickups and trailers and we load up all the cattle that we can fit on and hit the road. At times we have as many as 11 pickups and trailers going in our convoy. It is a really cool thing to go down the road with all of us in a line, or maybe it is just us that think it is cool!
Once we get to the pasture, we unload all of the cattle into a pen and let all the mammas find their babies and then we open the gates up and they have free range to the pasture. In the fall, the cows will go back to corn stalks for the fall and part of the winter and then it’s back home to start the cycle all over again.
Allie Portenier is a senior at Eustis-Farnam High School in western Nebraska. She plans on attending college to major in Ag Business with the intent of becoming a livestock auctioneer and raising cattle. She is involved in many activities including 4-H and FFA.