Is the branding fire going cold on Oklahoma ranches? These cowboys say yes.

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SNYDER, OKLAHOMA -- For as long as cows and cowboys have roamed the big pastures of Southwest Oklahoma, the annual process of branding calves has brought good hands and families together.

"You know we did 200 and some odd the other day," says young rancher Ethan Treadwell.

Treadwell savours this time of year partly because he doesn't get a chance to do this very much.

He and his cousin Jason Treadwell run stocker cattle for the most part.

By the time their cattle get to them the branding and tagging is already done.

"We brand all of our calves once a year," says Ethan. "So for a few weeks in Spring it's all hands on deck."

But there are always a few, a hundred head here, two hundred head there.

The Treadwells argue this way is best; cull the calves, drag them to the fire, brand them, give them ear tags, and shoot them full of medicine.

Jason states, "Actually you can drag 'em a whole lot quicker than you can put 'em through the chute."

It's all done in a matter of seconds if you have a good crew.

Enough experienced hands is the big reason this sight is becoming rare on Oklahoma ranches.

Ethan says, "You can get a whole lot more done with six good people than you can with fifteen yahoos."

Ethan and Jason both say there just aren't enough people who can do this job quickly and safely.

"People think they know how to do things," continues Ethan, "but until you do a whole bunch of them..."

"Ranchers are getting away from doing this kind of thing because it's just too hard to get help."

So when the call goes out for one of these branding days the weather tends to be fair, the atmosphere more like a reunion than a work session.

"This is fun for you," asks a round up visitor?

"Oh yeah," says Ethan. "I love it."

For some, the life of an Oklahoma cowboy is still the only one really worth living.

Jason chimes in, "The worst day, when you're cowboyin' is better than the best day of doing something else."

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