Branding Time Safety

It’s the time of year where ranches are starting to have brandings.

This picture here is my first time putting a brand on a calf. We did a small group of 50 or so. I will post about our formal branding later.


Branding can pose some hazards and one would do themselves a favor to think of safety and emergency procedures in advance. So I’m going to touch on some aspects of safety and branding.

Life Flight Helicopter-
When you live where we do, an ambulance is not close by. In an emergency situation, the ambulance would take about an hour to get here, then another hour and half to get you to an emergency room, that will probably send you on the another hospital better suited to treat you another hour or two away. Because of this, I keep the direct phone number to our life flight helicopter dispatch center in my phone. I call the dispatch office the day before and let them know we’re having a branding. I get GPS coordinates of a landing spot near the branding corrals that are in the appropriate format for the helicopter’s GPS system (the dispatch office can help you in describing ideal landing places). Taking these steps ahead of time can make a life and death difference in the treatment of someone badly hurt.

Keep a can of highly visible spray paint in a ranch pickup to mark a helicopter spot if necessary. Cattle prods with flags on them can be used to help indicate wind direction for pilots.

The pasture by our branding corral….better suited for a helicopter than an ambulance…


The Corral:
Make sure your corrals are in good condition. Have a place to tie up horses OUTSIDE the corral. If a horse is not being ridden, insist it be tied outside the corral. I have seen horses break loose in branding corrals and go bucking through the middle of things. With knives, needles, hot irons, ropes stretched out, people with their heads down holding calves, and a hot fire, do you really want a wild horse without a rider???? Tie them up outside.

The Horses:
Don’t bring a wild horse to rope calves. I’ve been to brandings where the only time of the year the people ride their horse (thanks to four wheelers) is at branding. This leaves a horse a little fresh and can cause problems because the horse is well out of practice. It’s best to use a well ridden and broke horse in the branding corral. More fair to the horse and everyone in the corral

First Aid Kit:
Assemble a first aid kit for trauma. Not just a cut, we’re talking about tourniquets, blood stop, burn ointment, and a body board. Have clean plastic bags to put appendages in and stock your water cooler with plenty of ice. Just think of all the things that can go wrong…. People get their teeth kicked out, they can get burned with a branding iron, ropers can lose fingers, someone can get ran over by a horse, I mean this is a very dangerous place with a lot going on. Have a first aid kit!

Putting one together with your kids makes a great 4H project and can open the table for discussion about what to do in an emergency and how to recognize dangerous situations.

Here is a link about some farm fist aid kits:
University of Iowa, Farm First Aid Kit

Or buy one, found at Gemplers: Farm First Aid Kit

If kids are going to be in the corral, make sure they have adult with them. Make sure the child is responsible enough to understand the dangers and how to stay out of the way. If children are not mature and responsible enough to be in the corral, put them in a pickup bed to watch outside the corral. There is usually an adult that isn’t involved that would be happy to keep an eye on them. Maybe even throw in some child sized lawn chairs so they can watch the show.

Here is a link to farm safety for kids full of great information:
Farm Safety Just for Kids

Another note is the branding meal. After having a guest accidentally eat a lemon bar with cashews, we had to rush him to meet an ambulance as he went into anaphylactic shock from a nut allergy. We’ve since seriously considered keeping an EpiPen. I also have the Red Cross first aid guide app downloaded.

The people that come to our branding are neighbors, friends, and family. I feel it is my duty to do what I can to keep them all safe. 99% of the time branding has no injuries besides the inevitable body full of bruises. But we still have to be mindful of the hazards and mitigate them in ways possible, especially in remote locations such as ours.

Of course we apply the ideas elsewhere. It makes me so nervous changing windmill oil I always take my phone with the life flight number….



This was my first time changing windmill oil. So many first lately!!!