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Friday, March 27, 2009

It’s Branding Time at Fort Griffin

Spring is branding time for the new calves of the Official Texas Longhorn Herd at Fort Griffin. Branding the calves prevents cattle rustling (which is still a problem throughout Texas), allows staff to track pedigrees and designates the animals as the property of the state of Texas. This March, staff branded 18 yearlings, registering them as an official part of the herd. During the past year, these calves were born on site, weaned from their mother cows and rounded up for registration.

Experienced staff handles the branding in a safe and humane manner and the animal is not harmed in the process. Staff herd the calves into a holding chute and heat the branding irons in a small gas-fueled "fire box" until red hot. The branding iron is placed carefully on the calves’ hide and held level to the flank long enough until the mark is permanent. Cattle hides are extremely thick and the burn never reaches the point where the animal is in pain. The official state brand, a Texas star, is placed on the calves’ left rear flank and a three-digit registration number on its right rear.

After their initial surprise, the animals don’t take too much notice of the proceedings. Each calf is then vaccinated against various diseases. Information about the calf is recorded, and then it rejoins the group in the holding pen. With years of experience, the Fort Griffin staff handles the process quickly, efficiently and safely.

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