Calf Branding at Sullivans
May 11, 2006
Tara Bolgiano took these pictures at Chris and Carla Sullivan's branding last weekend. Tara was raised on a local ranch and is now a professional photographer. You can see more of her work at www.blushingcrow.com.
Brands have been the primary method of identifying ownership of cattle in the Upper Green River Valley since the arrival of the first cattle in then 1870s. In Wyoming as well as several other western states, cattle can not be moved across county lines, state lines, or be sold without a brand inspection to prove ownership. All cattle in the state are branded.
In Sublette County the bulk of calves are born in March and April. May and early June are the prime time for branding the new calves. Brandings are social as well as functional. Each ranch plans a branding day and all the neighbors show up to help. Several hundred calves can be branded in a long morning leaving time for a big meal and relaxing with friends for a couple hors in the afternoon.
Cows and their calves are rounded up in the early morning and brought to a branding pen or corral. Two or three ropers on steady horses wade through the cows catching calves and dragging them to waiting teams of wrestlers. One person throws the calf on it side, removes the rope, and holds its head down while another grabs and holds the two hind legs. A series of other people doctor the calves. A calf is generally on the ground for no more than a minute or two. In that time a brand is applied with a hot iron, the calf is given a vaccination shot, bull calves are castrated, some calves are dehorned, and depending on the ranch, calves can be ear marked and/or ear tagged. They are then released and return to their mothers in the herd. The next calf is then waiting at the end of a rope to do it all over again.
Over the next few weeks this event captured by Tara at the Sullivan ranch will be repeated on several dozen ranches in the area, with many of the same people showing up to help, continuing a tradition that dates back over 100 years in Sublette County.
Photos and captions by Tara Bolgiano. Story by Pinedale Online.