Here in Montana spring means branding time. A lot of cattle ranches still make their mark of ownership by way of a brand. These brands are made with a heated iron and seared into the hide of cattle. From Wikipedia –
The act of marking livestock with fire-heated marks to identify ownership has origins in ancient times, with use dating back to the ancient Egyptians. Among the ancient Romans, the symbols used for brands were sometimes chosen as part of a magic spell aimed at protecting animals from harm
Although ranchers do not believe incantations will keep the animals from harm, the branding is an annual event. The event is ceremonial and includes family and friends and the occasional drop in guest. There is an open invitation usually to help celebrate this sacred act.
Branding is the celebration of new life that has been added to the heard. Making it to branding is a tenuous accomplishment for the calf. There is a standard 10% loss expected from the calves born to a herd, then there are years that it inexplicably exceeds that.[ Maybe they need to try an incantation or two.] Branding is also the time to administer the vaccinations that keep the calves from contracting the various diseases that kill cattle. The vaccines are not harmful to humans.
These calves are the new T-bone steaks and hamburger served daily in hamburger joints, fine restaurants and the family dinner table. They are the lifeblood of a ranching business. Being able to readily identify a ranches animal becomes necessary when they are in summer grazing. Usually the grazing is done on large tracts of land where the cattle help keep the weeds and grasses trimmed reducing the spread of weeds and wildfire. This grazing benefits the land and reduces the cost of raising beef.