Dehorning the dairy cattle is an old practice that became necessary as the dairies got bigger. It is a real easy task when the calves are small, but for some reason we waited to do it annually. It was always done on Thanksgiving Day. All the cousins would show up for the event and the feast. When the morning chores and lunch were finished Dad and Uncle Frank and the boys would all go out to the heifer pens and cut horns and brand. The girls would usually stay around the house because Tara had asthma and really had problems when she was out back around the hay and dust. Mom and my aunts would prepare Thanksgiving dinner. Those boys to young to help played in the hay stacks climbing and making hay forts.
We had a chute to work the heifers through and once gathered up the process began. Dad would work the great big shear that would fit over most of the horns and lop them off while Uncle Frank would brand from the back. Vaccinations were also given at this time. It was a lot of work. A few bulls would be castrated too. As I got stronger I could help. I would either hold the head or the tail. Either end worked for me, I enjoyed working together with everyone. Eventually I could cut the horns off and brand. The real work! The heifers ranged from about three hundred fifty to six hundred pounds. We would do around a hundred and fifty head at a time, whole years worth.
It was always interesting when some of the kids couldn’t stand the sight of the blood squirting out from the horns or the smoke from the branding. Half the fun was getting the warm blood al over the place. Yea when you had a lot blood on you it looked like you really were working. It was strange when it got into your eyes. It didn’t sting; it just turned everything a shade of red. Anyway it is one of my fondest memories.