Grubls gather for annual branding

May 1, 2019

STURGIS — Organized chaos: That aptly describes the scene at the Grubl Ranch Friday as family and friends gathered for the annual spring branding.

Adam Grubl is the sixth-generation on the ranch, and his twin 2-year-old daughters, Klancey and Kaydence, watching the action from behind a fence, will someday step in to help.

For Adam Grubl, spring branding is part of the ranching tradition.

“It’s neighbors getting together and helping each other. They come to our branding, and we go to theirs. I’ve got four or five in the next month that I’m going to,” he said.

On Friday, the Grubls branded 250 calves. Add that to the cattle they branded earlier in April and the large herd branded on Saturday, the total is about 800 head.

“When you have that many cows, to run them through in a day is hard on a crew,” he said. “If you spread it out and enjoy your time together, it makes it a lot easier to get people to help the next year.”

Branding is no easy task. There is roping, throwing, tattooing, inoculating, tagging, and more.

“If you worked a 9 to 5 job and came into this situation, you’d be lost,” Adam Grubl said.

Adam’s brother, Lucas, was the man with the branding iron Friday. He said using the electric brand to place the Grubl’s brand on the calves has been his job for a long time.

“I’ve been doing this since I was 16. I’ve got it figured out,” he joked.

Preceding the branding is calving season, and following there will be the artificial insemination of cows.

“You are just consistently moving. And it’s always changing. Ranchers are becoming more technologically advanced,” Adam Grubl said.

One such advancement comes in the form of electronic ear tags placed on the calves. In the past, calves were fitted with numbered ear tags. As they grew, the rancher, or rancher’s wife, would manually put in statistics related to each animal using their tag number.

Now, when they run the cattle through the chute, it will automatically recognize the animal when its electronic ear tag is scanned. The cow’s weight and other data are then automatically uploaded to a herd software program.

“It’s taken away the need to go home at night and do the book work,” Grubl said. “It takes one step out of the equation and helps to eliminate human error.”

The Grubls were glad to have nice weather for the branding and sorting of cattle over the weekend. Last year at this time, there was an early spring snowstorm that made the Grubls postpone the branding for a day.

On Saturday, about a third of an inch of rain fell before the sun came out.

“We had some folks leave here with really muddy outfits,” said Adam Grubl’s dad, Chris.

He will take muddy outfits over piles of snow any day, he said.

Part of the branding tradition is also the big meal on Saturday after all the tasks are finished. They feast on barbecued ribs, potatoes and all the fixings. And Chris’s mom, Iva Grubl, makes homemade pies.

“Nobody in the world makes better pie than my mom,” Chris Grubl said.

Chris arrived late to the meal and missed out on his favorite pie this year.

“I like sour cream raisin, but I settled for blueberry,” he said.

Saturday afternoon, the Grubls were again busy moving cattle to green grass.

“It is very nice to get that done. There’s just about no better feeling,” Chris Grubl said.

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