Behind the brand

A glimpse into the importance of a family’s annual cattle branding

Three men on horseback in field Three men on horseback in field

The Justin team was honored to join the Finley family amid their annual cattle branding. During our time we witnessed the shared camaraderie and hard work that goes into the age-old tradition of branding.

We captured the historical meaning behind a single cattle brand, from the character built through raising cattle to the family traditions passed on.

These images represent our nod to the cowboys and cowgirls who live out the character and traditions built through annual brandings from generation to generation.

The History Behind the Brand

The earliest livestock records date cattle branding back to the ancient Egyptians. The tradition of branding cattle or other livestock allows owners to claim ownership and deter theft. But it's
more than that.

A brand is a family's story and the legacy their children will carry onward. Centuries later, a lot has changed in the world and the western industry alike. The constancy of cattle branding highlights how the cowboy lifestyle endures through it all.

Person heats branding tool in fire Person heats branding tool in fire

The Tools Behind the Brand

Success in the branding pen can only happen with the help of quality tools to get the job done. Gathering and branding cattle requires working and riding in difficult circumstances. A good pair of chaps or leggings keep your legs safe from the scrapes of a mesquite patch when searching for that lone calf.

A dependable hat keeps your eyes shaded throughout the day as the sun climbs in the sky. A high-quality pair of boots keep you comfortable after hours in the stirrups and agile on the ground while jumping from calf to calf. Lastly, a seasoned horse is a vital partner who stays by your side and makes the day go smoothly.

Man on horseback among cattle Man on horseback among cattle

The Effort Behind the Brand

A cattle branding is not for the faint of heart, but neither is the western lifestyle. It requires getting dusty, sweaty, and even a little bloody. It requires getting up early and staying up late. It requires getting your hands dirty. It requires a commitment to seeing the job through.

But once the herd is turned out and the team rides back to headquarters, the feeling of accomplishment fills their tired bodies and warms their hearts.

Women on horseback among cattle Women on horseback among cattle

The Care Behind the Brand

The day starts by gathering the cattle from pasture and then sorting the cows from their calves. It's essential to make the process as quick and stress-free as possible for the pairs, so communication
is critical.

Once separated, someone on horseback is in charge of roping calves while their partners on the ground are ready to tag, vaccinate, treat, and brand. These procedures set the season up for success by ensuring the health and wellbeing of their herd. At the end of a long day, the cows find their calves; then the herd is turned out to graze while the family unwinds and enjoys some well-earned rest.

Man tags cows ear Man tags cows ear

The Weight Behind the Brand

The importance of a successful branding is not lost on the cowboys and cowgirls who make it happen. They know full well the benefits of their work today will be reaped when the cattle go to market.

The quality of their labor during a branding matters, which is why they continue to evolve as cowhands. In addition to developing their skills, they train high-quality horses years in advance. The future of their operation depends on the health and success of their herd.

Two young boys stand on fence Two young boys stand on fence

The Family Behind the Brand

A cattle branding is a team effort. Each generation contributes with its unique responsibilities throughout the day. The efforts of a branding are symbolic.

They carry out their family's legacy. It's passing the torch onto the younger generation. It's creating lifelong memories together. Even their pasture is a symbol. From the outside looking in, it may just look like a wide-open space, but to this family, it's their home. That pasture and the work done in it is the fruit of their generational labor. It's their legacy.

Women on horseback among cattle Women on horseback among cattle

It is so much more than just a brand

A brand is a family's story. A brand represents countless hours in the saddle and decades on the ranch. A brand is a testament to the character they built through hard work. Just as this family stewards their historic brand for generations to come, the Justin family continues the legacy of H.J. Justin when he founded the iconic Western brand in 1879.

It is who we are and who we will always strive to be.