Guest ranches, cowboy life and ranching throughout the Nicola Valley and the City of Merritt BC.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley – Branding Calves

Branding calves on the ranch

“I feel very blessed to be working with such a great bunch of people”

There are so many things to consider if you are ranching in the Nicola Valley – branding day and calves is one of them.

Spring is here in Merritt BC Canada, the calves are born and now it’s time to get things ready to start branding caves on the ranch. You want to do this before you send them to range or before anyone can take them.

There is so much you need to get organized and ready for branding day. Not only do you have to have your ropers and ground people lined up but you also have to make sure all your equipment is in working order. You also need to make sure you have all the necessary supplies for the day.

On top of all that your crew will need to be fed and kept hydrated throughout the day.

Today I am going to take you through a day of ranching in the Nicola Valley – branding calves. This is not like a typical written blog but a story through photographs. I really hope you enjoy.

Start of the day

Once the crew all know there jobs, fed breakfast which on this day consisted of coffee, tea, water, juice, muffins, bacon and egg or ham and egg on English muffins.

 

 

showing breakfast cattle ranching

Breakfast at the Ranch House

Horseback riding in the Nicola Valley

Cowboys mounting up and discussing life before the real work begins.

Breakfast done, now everyone is just getting ready to head out to gather the cows and calves.

Branding calves in the Nicola Valley

Cowboys heading up to gather the cows and calves and bring them in for branding.

branding calves in the nicola valley

Ranching in the Nicola Valley – Branding Day, bringing the first herd in from the back fields.

Branding calves in the Nicola Valley

Heading into the arena.

Branding calves in the Nicola Valley

Look at all the fresh grass. Won’t be like that for long.

Branding calves in the Nicola Valley

Cowboys getting ready to start roping the calves.

Branding calves in the Nicola Valley

Here we go, first calf roped and getting hauled up to the branding station.

Branding calves in the Nicola Valley

Once they have had their medications its time to brand. Gerry is checking to make sure the brand is on well enough. The smoke is from the hair burning.

Branding calves in the Nicola Valley

Two sides going at once to make it a smoother operation and a little faster.

Branding calves in the Nicola Valley

Corena branding one of her calves.

Branding calves in the Nicola Valley

Sometimes things don’t go quite as planned so the ground crew tries to help out in catching the calf to re position the rope into the correct place. It’s all about team work.

Branding calves in the Nicola Valley

Waiting for all parts of the branding to be completed before letting the calf go.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

You can see here the calf was roped in the wrong spot.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

So they wrestle the calf and re position the rope.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Which makes it easier and faster to give the medications and position for getting the ranches brand.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Gerry from 8 Mile Ranch putting his brand on.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

First herd finished and heading back out to pasture. Lunch Break

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Horses all lined up along the fence as the cowboys and crew stop for lunch.

Lunch Time

Another great meal consisting of fruit trays, vegetable trays, home made sausage rolls, sandwiches, muffins, all kids of little deserts and drinks.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Lunch all done, time to head out and gather the second herd.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Ranching in the Nicola Valley – Branding Day. This is the second herd coming in for branding.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

As the second herd makes it’s way into the arena you can see it isn’t as grassy this time.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

I have to say this is one of my favorite calves. I call it Panda. Just missing the white around the eyes.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Relaxing for a moment while waiting it’s turn.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Ranch dogs patiently waiting for their turn to do some work.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

The hair is clipped away so you can see better where you are putting the brand.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

The Bosses 🙂 Gerry 8 Mile Ranch and Corena Calton Cattle Co.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Kids also love having some fun on branding day.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Colin bringing up another calf. Way to go Colin.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Nothing quite like seeing a father and son bonding.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Calves are just so darn cute.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

The Boss Gerry doing his part in roping a calf. These horses are just as hard working as the cowboys and people on the ground. It is really quite something to watch how it all comes together.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Corena’s pretty brand on one of her calves. Nice job

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Sometimes a little wrestling is in order hahaha, hold her down.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

UT watching on, waiting to go out and work.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Gerry jumping off his horse to fix the rope on a calf.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Catch it…

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

And re position the rope. Great team work by all.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Team wrestling is a fact of life when branding. Flipping a calf that just didn’t want to go down.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Hold on… We are almost done!

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Oh another one where the rope needs to be re positioned.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Way to go, get them all finished up.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Group two heading back out to pasture

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

There’s that little panda again. So darn cute.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Second group back into the pasture, now to go and get the third and final group.

Final Group to be Branded

 

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Ranching in the Nicola Valley – Branding day. Here comes the last small group of calves that need to be branded. Yes, that is a dairy cow that you see. She is a surrogate mother. Any orphan calves that the ranch gets will be introduced to the Dairy cow. She takes them on as her own. It’s quite amazing to watch.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

There always seems to be one that ends up almost like a pet

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

This little one is no exception. Corena has to go and give it a little pet.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Then she talks to it before branding. So cute. So much care and consideration goes into everything that this ranch does. I feel blessed to be a part of what they do.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

And sometimes you think you have it.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

You try really hard

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

And still….

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

The calf wins and gets away….lol

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

There is even a dummy steer and rope for those who would like to try their luck.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Kids seem to love it

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Although it’s more fun to rope your brother and drag him around.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Okay, I will let you go hahaha.

Supper Time

Now that all the calves have been branded. It’s time to relax, tell stories and prepare for the amazing supper.

All in all a day ranching in the Nicola Valley – Branding Day is a day of not only full of hard work. It is also fun in seeing old friends, new ones and enjoying all the day had to offer.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

The start of the amazing Mexican dinner being prepared for supper by Patrick.

Ranching in the Nicola Valley - Branding Day

Adding peppers, oh my it’s looking so good.

For more great blogs about Merritt and the Nicola Valley head over to Experience Nicola Valley web page.  Corena owner of  Calton Cattle Co is also at Creative Company in downtown Merritt with lots of wonderful western decor.

western decor Calton Cattle Co Merritt BC Nicolla Valley

Photo Credit Calton Cattle Co. at Creative Company

Ranching in the Nicola Valley – Branding Day

Living and Cowboying in the Nicola Valley

When you hear the word “cowboy” what is the first thing that comes to your mind?

Did you know that the term cowboy was first documented in the English language by 1725? It was a direct translation of the Spanish word vaquero — one who manages cattle from horseback, cowboy has the same meaning. Vaquero is rooted in the word vaca, or cow, and stems from the Latin vacca.

For some of us, it is not easy to develop trust when we are dealing with something or someone new. Dealing with a horse is not different. How can you communicate with a horse? How do horses communicate with us? To learn more about horsemanship, let me introduce our guest blogger Miles Kingdon, from Miles Kingdon Horsemanship.

I wanted to cowboy on a big ranch…

cowboyI came from Saskatchewan to the Nicola Valley, in March of 1981,  because I wanted to cowboy on a big ranch.  Most importantly, I wanted a full time cowboying job in cow country.  To live in a land where I could see the mountains and ride my horse across creeks and streams, and view wildlife year round.

I had been a cowboy on the big government pastures in Saskatchewan, but that job was seasonal; finishing for the year when the farmers took their cattle home in the late fall.  Besides, the winters were bitterly cold there, and not conducive to riding year round.

So I headed to B.C.  When I drove into the Nicola Valley from Kamloops, on Highway 5A (the only highway at that time), I saw vast, beautiful rolling hills of bunchgrass.  I knew that this was the place I wanted to stay.

Streams, lakes, and beautiful wooded hills

My first cowboying job was at the Douglas Lake Cattle Company.  Every day, I rode out in the early morning to look at a new range; with creeks, streams, lakes, and beautiful wooded hills to look at.  Other days, I’d be riding across a sea of grass, and knew I was in the best cow country I could ever see.

It was a good life at Douglas Lake, but I was still hungry to see what was on the other side of the ridge, so I hired on at Nicola Ranch.  I had a family of my own by then, and being at Nicola Ranch exposed me more to the Merritt Community.  Our children were born in Merritt, went to school and were involved in sports in Merritt.

A cowboy may not plan on involving himself in the community too much, because of his time spent at work, but he will, through the love of his children and interest in their daily activities.  It is inevitable for the parents.  They will rub shoulders with other parents and become involved in community functions, and as a result, feel like part of that community.

A new learning curve for this cowboy

cowboyAs the years rolled by, my interest in other ranges, and the desire to do better for my family, led me to the other big ranches across BC; the Bar K Ranch, Empire Valley Ranch, and the Gang Ranch.  These places were all a new learning curve for this cowboy.  Learning how to fit into a new environment, and acclimatize to each new system’s way of doing things; all were good for me.  I gained more knowledge about grasslands and different herd management practices.

Also, very important to me, was making a new string of horses for me to go to work with.  Taking the horses from being young and inexperienced to a finished bridle horse, at each ranch.

Cowboys and cowgirls from all walks of life passed through our pretty valley.

A horse experienced at roping and doctoring cattle, cutting, and sorting cattle, and eventually becoming a willing partner that anyone, even my children,  could eventually ride.  And they did.  And until my children gained enough experience to be good help to the crew, the horses would take care of them throughout the day at work, and bring them home safely.

Not only did the horses watch how they carried my children through their formative and impressionable years, but so did the cowboys we rode with, always watched out for them.  Each of those hands became like uncles or aunts to our kids.  This is part of what makes our community so unique.  Cowboys and cowgirls from all walks of life passed through our pretty valley.

At one time, the native community provided most of the recruits for the cowboy crews, and as the years rolled by, people from all over Canada, the US and beyond came to ride on these legendary outfits; some to move on to new ranges, some to stay and raise their families.  Ultimately, my family and I always came back to the Nicola Valley.  It wasn’t just the ranges and the scenery, the forgiving environment, and the horses, it was the community.  The people, and their empathy for others held us here.

Back when I was younger, and cowboying at Douglas Lake, one of the older hands did the math and figured we were riding an average of 5,000 miles/year horseback.  Some of us questioned that, but the elders on the crew attested to that figure.  Some outfits were less distance covered on horseback, while some, like the Gang Ranch, were a bit more.

I understand the horse…

So, after over forty years of cowboying for a wage, I’ve come to make a lot of friends in the cattle industry, and I’ve gotten to a place where I understand the horse quite a bit better.  It makes a difference in me, at days end, to count my blessings and tally up how many things were a bit better today than yesterday, with my horses, dogs, saddle partners and life.

It seemed the natural thing to do, once I left cowboying for the outfits full time, to hang my shingle out doing workshops.  To teach the skills we learned going places on horses, and making a living as a cowboy.  So, today, my wife and saddle partner, Possum, and I are making a business of that.  We have two more horsemanship/stockmanship workshops coming up this summer in the valley, at Seven Half Diamond Ranch.

There’s always a horse, and a person, who could use a hand.

cowboyNow, I can pass on these skills to whomever may be interested in working with horses and cattle.  There’s always a horse, and a person, who could use a hand.  And I really enjoy passing on knowledge to our youth, who, during their impressionable years, grow and gain knowledge the most. That is what they really desire.

Ultimately, after years of freedom and adventure, going places horseback, I had a few good stories to tell, and my wife pushed me to write them down.  As a result, we are looking at publishing our first book later this year.  It will be stories of life horseback, mostly situated in this valley of ours.

Many great adventures

The horse has brought me to many great adventures, and contact with a lot of good people.  The horse will do this for others as well. As long as there’s these grasslands and cattle that need to be maintained, there will be men and women riding down a trail and listening to their spurs chiming in time to their horse’s stride.  I have been blessed to grow in this community, and have come to love this valley, and the people in it.

Thanks, Miles Kingdon! We look forward to your book!

Click here for more info on Miles’ workshops. “Miles Kingdon Horsemanship offers a wide range of clinics, camps and workshops.”

Miles Facebook Page

For more reading on the cowboy experience in the Nicola Valley, read Etelka’s blog on the Nicola Valley Pro Rodeo.

cowboy