Rust from the Range
Interesting historical finds on the ranches
This is a historic blab, or a calf-weaning nose ring, found on Anderson Mesa. A version of this tool is still used today to discourage calves from suckling on their mothers while keeping the pairs together. This blab, probably from the early-1900s, is about 6" x 4". Each spike is about 2" long; while one spike is now bent down, it was originally straight like the others. The holes are to tie a rope through.
Blabs fit in the calf's nose without piercing it, and are re-usable. The spikes disturb the mother cow so she rejects her calf's attempts at suckling. However, today's models are much less 'Medieval' – while this metal blab could cause some serious damage to the udder (just look at those spikes!), modern blabs are made of plastic and are usually just a nose-flap (see picture, from QuietWean). If they have spikes, the spikes are much smaller and duller, so they are just an irritant for the mother and not painful.
Today, calf weaners are used primarily by dairy farmers. Many ranches will wean their calves in the early fall by separating the calves from their mothers – since ranches like the Bar T Bar and Flying M are cow-calf operations, they will sell their calves and ship them away in the early winter, and the 'separation' style of weaning is more practical. However, it requires space (and patience). With limited space, or a different expected outcome, using blabs allow for an easier transition from the calf drinking its mother's milk to eating grass and forage.