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The 701x team had the opportunity to head out west to our testing facility in the Badlands of North Dakota. We were able to experience some aspects in the life of a rancher by assisting our Ranch Manager Brock, with branding cattle. This was a new experience for most of our team members and we were all very excited to learn about the ranch and work hands-on with the cattle.

We headed out to the ranch bright and early in the morning. Before we arrived, Brock had already gathered and organized the cow-calf pairs by separating them into different pens to keep things organized and simplify the process a bit.

In small groups, we directed the adult cows and yearling heifers through an alley with a squeeze-chute system at the end. The alley allowed us to organize and line up the animals and lead them to the chute. One cow at a time entered the squeeze-chute system, which is designed to restrain the animal efficiently and safely in a standing position to receive their brand and required vaccinations. Restraining the animal in the chute reduces the risk of injury to the animals and those who are handling them.


Branding is a permanent technique used to claim ownership of livestock and has been used for hundreds of decades – dating back to the early Egyptians. Each rancher has their own unique, and custom-made brand that is used on all their cattle. Custom brands were designed to differentiate one ranch’s cattle from another’s. Traditional hot branding uses a hot iron that is heated with wood or coal fire. We used a more modern way which involves an electric branding iron.

The branding process only lasts a few moments or until the hair on the hide has been removed. The brand leaves each cow with a clear, permanent scar in the shape of a unique symbol. The vaccines are administered simultaneously with the brand to increase efficiency and minimize the time spent with each animal. When each cow had gone through the chute, they were released and directed to a separate pen where they stayed until every cow was done.

After taking a break to cool off, grab some snacks, hydrate, and chat, we moved onto a bit more challenging task – working with the calves. The calves were rounded up in small groups and were directed into a branding pen. Since the calves are significantly smaller than their mothers, the alley and chute system could no longer be used as is it is only designed to hold large cattle.


Brock gave us all a demonstration on how to correctly catch a calf, flank it, and how to hold it down in the proper position to ensure appropriate branding and vaccine placement. Afterward, the calf wrestling began. 701x team members were eager to start and quickly figured the technique out. Each calf got branded, vaccinated, marked, and castrated if it was a bull. Castrating of the calves was done by Brock as he is the most knowledgeable and has the most experience doing this. The testicles were collected in a cooler to later be served.

Two men wrestling a calf to administer vaccines and receive a brand.

Wrestling a calf works best in teams. First, one individual takes hold of a calf's back leg, making the calf unbalanced and challenging for them to run away or stay upright. Another individual is then responsible for reaching under the neck and flank of the calf to lift and bring it to the ground. Once the calf is on the ground, one person kneels on the calf’s neck to keep it from getting back up and the other person sits on the ground behind the calf. The individual on the backend extends a back leg of the calf and holds it against the ground while maintaining a firm grip on the other leg that is off the ground and pulling it back towards their chest. This keeps the calf restrained and makes things a whole lot easier for the brander, those who are administering vaccines, and Brock for castration if the calf is a male.

Wrestling calves may seem like an easy task but taking down 200–250-pound animals takes a lot of energy out of you!