It’s all about the nuts.

RealRancher Jim Hellyer says, "We castrate for several reasons...It's easier to manage steers than bulls; it's easier on the animal and the rancher to castrate younger animals; and it's related to the overall tenderness and flavoring of the end product."

Young bull* calves in one side, young steer* calves out the other.  My preferred method of castration starts with a very sharp clean knife and ends with two warm little oysters in the nut bucket.  It doesn’t take long; first a small slice across the scrotum, squeeze firmly for grip, a little tug, another slice on the cord, and bingo….another steer just entered the world.

Seriously, if a guy really gets his hands properly wrapped around the problem the whole process is quick….say 20 to 30 seconds…

That is my job at the branding.  I am the cutter.  Castration is the task.  And cleanliness is the rule.  Always wash your knife and hands between animals.

Around our neighborhood there is a hierarchy at the branding.  The elders place their mark, the help (irreplaceable neighbors) push calves and turn tables, and the organized keep score on a rugged PC and administer the health regimen.  The joke around here is that it takes a lifetime to get from the back of the table to the front.

RealRancher Timmery Hellyer uses a handheld computer during branding and castrating. It is used as part of a "Source and Age" program their livestock are enrolled in.

We probably do it slightly different than the next, but not in any manner that is necessarily better.  It is called branding season and it precedes irrigation season.

*Terms to know:

Bull – an uncastrated (in-tact) male bovine.

Steer – a castrated male bovine.

Source and Age Verification – Source and/or age verified programs utilize the RFID tag technology (like what Timmery is holding above) to record and verify the sources and ages of beef cattle.

From RealRancher Jim Hellyer – Lander, Wyo.

Photos taken by Marcia Hellyer.