So what is your brand?

No, I’m not going to pretend to understand “branding” as a marketing tool, business or institutional image, or key element in developing a small business plan.

If you need expertise on those topics, read “Cynthia’s Communique,” the blog of NFPW Past President and Communicator of Achievement Director Cynthia Price of Virginia.

I’m more familiar with the use of brands in ranch country of the Great Plains and West to permanently identify ownership and, usually, place of birth for cattle. That’s important to people who want to trace the origins of food products and to cattle owners who use unique brands to help protect against theft.

The ear tags cattle producers use to match mama cows and babies, and to keep business records can be removed or fall out. A brand is much more difficult to remove, or explain to brand inspectors without an accompanying bill of sale.

As I spent Saturday from before sunrise until a beef brisket dinner in the early afternoon in a green-carpeted Gosper County pasture that is part of the Cross Diamond Ranch, it occurred to me that the brand worn by the cinnamon to rust, dark brown to black cattle also is tied to the producers’ reputation.

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This was the largest of several branding days for Scott and Kim Ford, their ranch employees, neighbors and friends, with 230 calves rounded up in the pasture hills, separated for a time from their mothers, branded and given three vaccinations.

Branding25, Vade Jensen, Megan Nation

It was great to watch the well-coordinated veteran crew work with their equally talented, equally calm horses.

This was not the wild branding day that’s part of Hollywood fantasy. The roundup seemed mostly like a pleasure-pace ride through the pasture.

Yes, there was some wailing of mothers and babies during the separation period. But once the calves were sorted, it was amazing how quickly and quietly the men, women and horses worked.

Each calf was roped by a leg or two, slowly dragged across damp grass to the waiting cowboys. Two held each calf on its side until it could be branded and receive three shots, a process that usually took less than 30 seconds.

Does a brand hurt? Probably, even on a thick hairy hide. But I’m sure it’s far less painful than what is experienced by people who “brand” themselves with tattoos and/or piercings.

Branding33

Would you not vaccinate your young children because you didn’t want to upset them or have them holler for a bit?

Branding day is hard work. However, the serious, sometimes dangerous business still allows time to catch up with friends and share a good time with other folks who wouldn’t want to be anywhere else on a beautiful spring morning.

I appreciated being allowed to observe the event and take photos. No one yelled at me about being in the way, although a mama cow let out a bawl right behind me that nearly scared me to death.

I went to branding day to take photos and get information for a story-essay or something in writing for next Saturday’s Kearney Hub ag feature.

I was reminded about some of the many things I love about living in rural Nebraska. It’s where neighbors always come to help, farmers and ranchers love their land and their livestock, and some tried and true traditions carry on.

All those things are part of the Nebraska brand.

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