Tony Bruguiere
Ft. Collins, Colo.

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June 14, 2010
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Family branding on the Western Slope


If you have a big ranch and you are going to be branding a hundred calves or more, you call for help from the neighboring ranches, invite all your friends, and turn the branding into a social gathering. If you have a small ranch, you invite your parents and your cousin and you set about getting the work done.

Wade Gerber and his wife, Tinneal, have a 400 acre cow-calf operation just west of Craig, Colo. Wade said, "We are running 17 Hereford pairs. That's pretty much what the grass will support. On a good year we can run more, but lately it has been so dry, that's about all it will handle. If we could get some good years with plenty of rain, we could probably run more, but we can't count on the rain. So you run what will work in a bad year."

The Gerber brand has been in the family since the 1920s. Wade's dad, Erv, and his mother, Arloa, have been ranching in Moffat County, Colo., all of their lives. Wade and Tinneal have two boys, Tyler who is almost 14 and Kearn who is 12. Besides the usual reasons for raising cattle, the Gerber Ranch helps the boys keep their ranching heritage alive.

Tinneal Gerber said, "It is good for the boys. They take the steers from our herd for their 4-H projects." Wade added, "They have two in the corral up at the house that they are feeding for this year's fair and they already have their two picked out for next year. They pick them out the day they hit the ground."

No matter what the size of the ranch, the work is the same, the difference is how you get it done. There will have to be some adjustments when you are a small family operation and you are trying to provide a teaching experience at the same time. Tinneal Gerber said, "The boys just started roping off of horses. I think that we will put one of them on a horse and see how that goes." Twelve year old Kearn got to rope off a horse and it went very well. Tyler did a great job heeling on foot, but as the day wore on, he needed a little help from Dad dragging the calves to the fire.

The Gerbers also used a Nord Fork to take the place of a ground crew member. A Nord Fork is a wishbone shaped device whose small end fits behind the head and under the ears of a calf to help hold it while the ground crew works the calf. The Nord Fork was invented by Nord Hill of Taber, Idaho, and is an improvement over the "deadman" stake which is still in use on many ranches. The Nord Fork is a real improvement in that it holds the calf securely but does not choke it. It is very easy for one person to release.

To use a Nord Fork a calf is heeled then dragged past the ground crew. As the calf goes by, one of the ground crew slips the Nord Fork behind the calf's head. As the heeler continues to drag the calf, a rope and inner tube tied to the Nord Fork and staked into the ground tighten. When the rope and inner tube are tight, the heeler quits dragging. The heeler continues to hold the heel rope as the calf is worked, and the Nord Fork holds the front end.

When the work on the calf is finished, you just grab the small end of the fork and lift and it slips right off. Loosen the heel rope and the calf walks away.

No matter how big the ranch is, one constant is that there are going to be hard jobs that just have to be done, and there will always be enterprising families like the Gerbers that will figure out ways to get the job done and still have fun doing it.

If you have a big ranch and you are going to be branding a hundred calves or more, you call for help from the neighboring ranches, invite all your friends, and turn the branding into a social gathering. If you have a small ranch, you invite your parents and your cousin and you set about getting the work done.

Wade Gerber and his wife, Tinneal, have a 400 acre cow-calf operation just west of Craig, Colo. Wade said, "We are running 17 Hereford pairs. That's pretty much what the grass will support. On a good year we can run more, but lately it has been so dry, that's about all it will handle. If we could get some good years with plenty of rain, we could probably run more, but we can't count on the rain. So you run what will work in a bad year."

The Gerber brand has been in the family since the 1920s. Wade's dad, Erv, and his mother, Arloa, have been ranching in Moffat County, Colo., all of their lives. Wade and Tinneal have two boys, Tyler who is almost 14 and Kearn who is 12. Besides the usual reasons for raising cattle, the Gerber Ranch helps the boys keep their ranching heritage alive.

Tinneal Gerber said, "It is good for the boys. They take the steers from our herd for their 4-H projects." Wade added, "They have two in the corral up at the house that they are feeding for this year's fair and they already have their two picked out for next year. They pick them out the day they hit the ground."

No matter what the size of the ranch, the work is the same, the difference is how you get it done. There will have to be some adjustments when you are a small family operation and you are trying to provide a teaching experience at the same time. Tinneal Gerber said, "The boys just started roping off of horses. I think that we will put one of them on a horse and see how that goes." Twelve year old Kearn got to rope off a horse and it went very well. Tyler did a great job heeling on foot, but as the day wore on, he needed a little help from Dad dragging the calves to the fire.

The Gerbers also used a Nord Fork to take the place of a ground crew member. A Nord Fork is a wishbone shaped device whose small end fits behind the head and under the ears of a calf to help hold it while the ground crew works the calf. The Nord Fork was invented by Nord Hill of Taber, Idaho, and is an improvement over the "deadman" stake which is still in use on many ranches. The Nord Fork is a real improvement in that it holds the calf securely but does not choke it. It is very easy for one person to release.

To use a Nord Fork a calf is heeled then dragged past the ground crew. As the calf goes by, one of the ground crew slips the Nord Fork behind the calf's head. As the heeler continues to drag the calf, a rope and inner tube tied to the Nord Fork and staked into the ground tighten. When the rope and inner tube are tight, the heeler quits dragging. The heeler continues to hold the heel rope as the calf is worked, and the Nord Fork holds the front end.

When the work on the calf is finished, you just grab the small end of the fork and lift and it slips right off. Loosen the heel rope and the calf walks away.

No matter how big the ranch is, one constant is that there are going to be hard jobs that just have to be done, and there will always be enterprising families like the Gerbers that will figure out ways to get the job done and still have fun doing it.




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The Fence Post Updated Aug 14, 2012 04:44PM Published Jun 14, 2010 12:08PM Copyright 2010 The Fence Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.