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How to Flank a Calf

Jay Hopson

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Somewhere along the line of your cowboy career, you will undoubtedly be called upon to flank a calf. This may be the kind of flanking you see calf ropers do at rodeos, or it may be flanking a calf that has been drug up by the hind feet. There is an art to flanking a calf, and we will explore that art here.

The main factors in flanking are balance and timing. A weightlifter may have more trouble flanking a calf than a small person with balance and timing. However, with practice, the weightlifter can do it too. A large calf can be thrown down with little strength, if your timing and balance are working together.

A calf can be flanked with no rope on him, but for the sake of this article we will assume you have a calf being drug up to you with a rope attached to either its head or its heels. Like calf ropers, if the calf is caught by the head you will run up on the side of the calf and drape one hand over the far hind quarters, grasping the flank or fleshy portion between the rear leg and belly of the calf. If you're right handed, this would be your right hand. With your other hand grasp the rope up near the calf's head.

This is where balance and timing come in. If the calf is large it is necessary to work with his momentum. Wait till his feet come off the ground. Normally they will be jumping and squirming against the rope. When their feet leave the ground, lift up with both hands and fold him down on the ground. Grasp his front leg and pull towards yourself. This will gain control of him as you place your knee against his body to hold him down. You have flanked a calf!

Calves drug by the feet usually require two people. This practice is used at most cattle ranches when branding and doctoring. With one person on either side of the rope, approach the calf, one person grabbing the tail, while the other grasps the rope near the hind legs. Pulling in unison in opposite directions causes the calf to be thrown over on its side, at which point the person who had the rope usually runs to the front of the calf and pulls up on the top front leg, while the other person grasps the top rear leg and pulls outward, placing one foot against the other rear leg. Both people hold the calf down while whatever necessary procedure is done to it.

Some may feel this is inhumane, but the fact is that most calf flanking is done for the good of the calf. If a medical procedure is needed, then flanking is the most humane way to work on a calf, keeping both him and the cowboy safe from harm.

I hope these tips on flanking a calf have helped. With practice you will become proficient at flanking.

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