Banding Day

“Boys will be boys.” That same adage applies to bull calves too. Health issues resulted in delaying some things I do around the ranch this year. Banding my bull calves was one of them. In a typical year, I’ll band bull calves, which turns them into steers, within just a few weeks of their birth.

Our male calves ranged in age from three to five months old this year, before banding day arrived. The purpose for turning bulls into steers is threefold; safety, taste, and profit. As with any testosterone-filled male, there’s a natural aggressiveness exhibited. By castrating them when young, they become gentler and that makes for safer handling and sharing pasture with other cattle. Testing has shown a steer’s meat is tenderer and has a milder taste as compared to bulls; again because of their testosterone. Last, steers gain more weight on average than bulls, and when combined with already bringing a higher price as commercial steers, it increases profit.

I prefer to wean calves from their mamas at about six months old. This gives the already pregnant mama cow a chance to recover during the last two trimesters of their next pregnancy. Weaning is stressful for everyone involved, so I prefer to background my calves (vaccinations, banding for the males, worming, etc.) before I wean them. This helps minimize stress on the animals.

In preparing to band calves, I consider several factors. Environmental conditions, such as clean equipment, tools, and animals; and dry ground to help prevent infection are important. Castration method used, either elastration (banding) or knife (using a sharp pocket knife or Newberry knife); both have their pros and cons. Last is the age and size of the calf. As mentioned earlier, it’s best to do this soon after their birth as it prevents many safety issues and performance problems.

Here at the Cross-Dubya, we choose to band as it is less intrusive with potentially less side effects. The risk in banding calves is that we don’t capture both testicles, requiring surgical intervention later. Without getting too detailed, banding places a small rubber ring (shown above) over the bull’s scrotum, cutting off blood flow. The scrotum and testicles atrophy and fall off between one and six weeks later.

When banding day arrived, I was grateful for help from some experienced ranch hands. With three of us, it made the process easier. I herded the cattle into the tub and then down the alley. Mr. Wayne operated the head gate and applied the bands. My friend Mr. David had the toughest job, which was keeping the calves from kicking Wayne or lying down in the chute. Placing a timber behind their rear legs kept them from kicking our friend in the face. David then worked as the “tail-twister”, in which he would twist their tail and lift upwards to keep them from sitting down on his friend.

I have gentle livestock, but when any mama cow hears her calf crying out for them, she comes running to investigate. It was touching to watch the mama come up to low and lick her calf’s face. No charging and little bellowing meant all of us were safe. As soon as completing the process, we freed the calf; mama and baby then escaped to private for some nurturing. We completed banding in less than two hours, and all enjoyed a cool drink after a job well done.

Thanking God in prayer for His protection, safety, and guidance throughout the day, some thoughts came to me, as they often do. I recognized how the transformation occurring after banding is like my salvation. While it will not guarantee my new steers eternal life, the similarities amazed me. Upon my salvation, God’s gentling process began. With time, I too became less aggressive and safer to be around.

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As the sanctification process continues, my fruit increases in quantity and quality. When following God’s lead, the fruit of my works (my offerings) create a sweet aroma in heaven. I pray the works God encourages me to do for His glory will make me more valuable in heaven’s economy. My “investments in eternity” during my short life here on earth create a wonderful legacy of love for those I leave behind; and prepare me for eternity’s work.

Christ will judge as promised in 1Corinthians 3:12-13, the faithfulness in which I served. If I performed works in a way that brought glory to God, then my rewards will remain after the refining fire of the Bema seat, the judgement seat of Christ. He will not judge my salvation; sealed long before. This judgment is testing the rewards I’ve earned through my faithfulness to my Lord. At this judgment’s end, I pray not to stand empty-handed before my Savior; having nothing left to offer Him for His great sacrifice for me.

In the same way banding transforms my calves into gentle, submissive, sweet, and more profitable animals for our ranch, God’s sanctification of His children adds to our value as Christians; both on this earth and in heaven. I pray you willingly submit to the transforming power of sanctification without any need for headgates, squeeze chutes, and tail-twisting.

God’s blessings,


Please join me each Thursday evening at 9:30 Eastern as host Coach Mark Prasek and I take a trip Around the Cross-Dubya. We discuss this week’s blog post, offer insight about the lessons learned, and enjoy the fellowship of friends in the live chat room.

58 thoughts on “Banding Day”

  1. Your first two lines made me laugh out loud. I think it would be hard for any mama to nurse and be pregnant at the same time. That’s a lot of work on a body! 🙂

    And, yes, I agree, the sanctifcation process transforms us and shows up by fruit in our lives!

  2. Your metaphors always leave me thinking, J.D. What a beautiful picture of the progression of sanctification. (And I’m glad you got some good help!) Take care of yourself. 🙂

    1. I was most grateful for the help also Ms. Cathy. When those fellas get larger, they become more and more difficult to handle. When just days old you can pick them up. When months old, they MOVE you out of their way. 🙂 Am so pleased that you enjoyed the post ma’am. Just like yours my friend.

  3. Roger D. Maddox

    Love it. Grew up on a farm and understood most of this. But I love how you tell it. I like how you tie that physical process into our spiritual process of maturation.

    1. It’s amazing how very patient God is with us Ms. Tammy. If my cows messed up as much as I did, they would have gone to the auction long before that time. 🙂 What a merciful God we serve.

  4. As a farm girl, I’m familiar with banding, but never considered the similarities to the changes we demonstrate after salvation. I’m always amazed at the lessons God teaches us through nature. In this case, I’m glad we can learn this lessons without our menfolk having to go through the actual process! Wishing you blessings, my friend. Hope the storm brings you needed rain and not wind or flood damage.

    1. You and me both Ms. Katherine! I knew you would appreciate the post, and the perspective my friend. We survived the storm (skirting just east of us), with only one inch of rain. Was praying for much more, but grateful for every drop we received.

    1. Amen Ms. Martha Jane! I’m learning that it’s a continuous process for me ma’am. I got to hear you and your Mr. Danny perform the other night there at Kennesaw UMC. What a blessing ma’am!

  5. I always love the lessons you glean from working on your ranch. It’s so beautiful and so relevant. I have to say my husband and I watch Dr. Pol on TV and have learned quite a lot about cows and bulls and different processes so I actually had heard of banding! But your slant on it was wonderful.

  6. So, now I know the difference between a bull and a steer and how the transformation takes place. I always learn so much from your posts and today’s visual was … well … fascinating. You do a wonderful job drawing word pictures.
    I’m glad you had help and that no one got hurt.
    In the end, how true that the sanctification process is not always comfortable but the results have a great payoff.
    Again, thanks for this interesting and thought provoking post.

    1. Awww shucks Ms. Connie. You say the nicest things ma’am. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post; and now know the difference between a bull and a steer. As I taught my pseudo grandson Jeremiah a few years ago; “See, no danglies!” 🙂

    1. Thank you Ms. Gail. Appreciate the kind words my friend. Like running a cow-calf operation, sanctification is a tough job indeed. I’m so glad we have a patient teacher. 🙂

  7. You might make a country girl out of me, J.D. And if I’m ever on Jeopardy and the category is Cattle, I’ll say, “Cattle for a Thousand, please.”

    1. Yes ma’am; I’m tryin’ to tell y’all. I’ll get the boots and hat shipped to you right soon. 😀 Know I may not always have an answer should you need to “phone a friend”, but we both know who does have all the answers we need. God’s blessings ma’am. Hey to Pastor David for me.

  8. Bulls, steers, banding – my ranch knowledge was just expanded once more! You do a great job of explaining a delicate process. I’m wondering how you choose which to band and which not to. Perhaps that will be a post for another day. We all need to be more gentler. After all, that’s a fruit of the spirit. Amazing how God designed hormones to be such a powerful and invisible source of health and personality.

    1. Thank you Ms. Karen. I’ll try and address your question in an email off-line ma’am, but please don’t hesitate to ask any questions you have. I can’t wait for you to return to that dude ranch one day and share all your knowledge with those great folks. They’ll hire you as ranch foreman on the spot! 😀

  9. Life on a ranch is totally outside my realm of experience, despite growing up in “the country”. Thank you for the peeks you give us into ranch life on the CrossDubya, J.D. And, thank you for the life lessons you learn and share with us. They always encourage and challenge and enlighten me! Blessings! Gena

  10. We did something similar with the bucklings (goats). It made the males nicer than my does. It would be Mike and I doing it with Mike holding the kid down while I used the emasculator to do the deed. Thanks for your analogy to the sanctification process! Very good post.

    1. Yes ma’am; it’s much the same process indeed! Isn’t it funny how it changes their character? Already, two of them have started eating out of my hands and it’s just been a few weeks.

  11. I think the only job worse than this was dehorning the young dairy calves with a hot iron ring. No head gate for 150 – 200 pound calves, but needed to be done for our safety and the future cows that would be integrated into the milking herd. I only recently gave away the dehorner to a young new vet just beginning her practice. Thanks for bringing back to memory those essentials that we had to get done on the farm and showing us the connection of our own spiritual journey as well!

    1. I’ve helped friends and neighbors de-horn more than few. Never used one of those fancy electric ones though, but have seen them used. There’s a reason I stay with polled cattle my friend. I cared for a gain calf one winter that has just been worked and de-horned. I fussed the the cowboy dropping them off and it was still bleeding. Even though I put some styptic powder on, it bled out overnight. I was sick about it, and told him I would never take another animal in that condition.

  12. Very interesting. 🙂

    I loved the “gentling” thought of our own transformation as we yield to the Holy Spirit in our lives. He does calm us and make us more gentle toward others.

    Loved learning about the cows. 🙂

    1. Thank you Ms. Melinda. Not something most folks think about; that’s for sure. Most don’t care how their hamburger or steak gets to them, only how it tastes. Am glad you enjoyed both the cattle and the spiritual lessons presented ma’am. God’s blessings.

  13. Always a lesson from you in most unusual ways. I know sanctification was front and center, but oh this sentence called to me: “I have gentle livestock, but when any mama cow hears her calf crying out for them, she comes running to investigate.” How my Father stands ready to investigate my cries and how I want to be a woman in the body of Christ who is tuned in to the cries of others. Many thanks.

    1. I’m so glad you picked up on that Ms. Marilyn. No matter who the parent is, if there’s any compassion in them at all they come running when their child cries out. 😀 Am so glad that spoke to you also ma’am. God’s blessings gentle friend.

  14. I’m a SoCal city girl, JD. I always learn something new about farm life on your blog. I appreciate how you consistently weave a spiritual lesson through your experiences on the farm.

  15. Oh my. All I could think of when I read this is, better you than me. I get all squeamish with medical procedures. But I do like your analogy of the way that God tempers us with His spirit. Well done, my friend.

  16. I appreciate the insight you show us through your ranch stories, J.D. Although I’ve never heard of the procedure you described, it reminds me of John 15 where we are grafted into the vine (Jesus) and how He prunes us so we produce more fruit. The cutting isn’t pleasant, but afterward, it yields the beautiful fruit of the Spirit, especially peace. Isn’t it amazing how our sanctification can mirror life on the ranch! Thanks, dear friend.

  17. Tricia Heideman

    Thank you J.D. for giving me some insight about our transformation. As God gives us trials so we grow in his grace, sometimes we forget what the trials and tribulations of this flesh life is about. I really needed to realize that these health problems with this body is just things the good Lord is teaching to grow and mature with. Thank you for the insight, May God bless you with his grace.

    1. Ditto young lady. It’s when we recognize that the tests God allows are meant to help us become stronger in Him, they become a bit more bearable. Praying you withstand the crucible of testing in your life as you learn to grow in Him.

    1. Thank you Ms. Denise. Isn’t it wonderful to see how all of God’s creations seem to work along the same general principles? I’ll never understand how some folks still cling to their beliefs that we are just the result of “happenstance.” 🙂 God’s blessings young lady.

  18. I’m continually amazed, inspired, blessed, instructed, etc. by the totally unanticipated things you find and use to create windows into God’s truth. While I’m not sure if God’s “gentling” process worked as well as He intended, I’m blessed to know that so much the disagreeable, unprofitable, potentially dangerous thing I would be without him. Thanks for another uplifting visit to the “Around the Cross-Dubya Duderanch”.

    1. Amen! You and me both Pastor Ron. 😀 The wonderful part is that it’s an ongoing process. As for “Dude”; the only dude here in this part of Texas is the chicken fried sandwich at the DQ. LOL God’s blessings my TN friend; and “Howdy” to the lovely Ms. Diane.

  19. Good post, JD. My hubby did the same on sheep, growing up on his parent’s farm. And I’ve witnessed it in gelding a young colt (but with knife).
    To relate it to sanctification is so apropos. The tight, often painful situations that He puts us in are scary. I, for one, want to kick out or just sit down and refuse to move. Thank God for His patience, kindness, and love for me. (us)

  20. Loved this, J.D., “With time, I too became less aggressive and safer to be around.” Not sure if I was aggressive before the Lord got ahold of me, but the words that came out of my mouth sure changed!

    1. There’s lots of ways we can show aggression my friend. I had a pretty aggressive mouth too. Perhaps “unfiltered” is a better description, but I sure understand my friend. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m ever grateful that God hasn’t given up on me.

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