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‘The only way to work cattle quickly is slowly’

Author: Kristy

Scenario:

You’ve just received a new shipment of stocker steers needing to be processed before being turned out onto summer pasture. These cattle have had human interaction and have are on the “flighty” side, but safe to walk through on foot. Fly tags need to be administered, booster shots given and you’re planning on putting a hot brand on their left hip – all on a time crunch before the next load comes rolling in. What do you know, looks like a few of them have bald patches from lice, better throw in the pour-on.

The facilities are decent and cattle tend to work well through them.

Looking at the clock, you gather up your mismatch crew to come up with a game plan. One of them has several years of experience handling cattle. The other is fairly new to the game, but has turned out to be pretty reliable. And then there’s Charlie. He’s neighbor’s teenage son you agreed to give a job for summer to try and keep him out of trouble. He has zero experience handling cattle and despite guidance, still yips and flaps around like a coyote on fire around cattle. You’ll consider his summer experience a success if no one throws a cattle prod at him.

Since time is of the essence, the first instinct to get cattle through the chute quicker than Ho Ho’s on an assembly line at a Hostess plant is to increase your crew’s energy and try to “run” the cattle through. On a second thought, that may not be the best idea.

“The only way to work cattle quickly is slowly.”

“Patience is a great virtue when gathering and working cattle. When we get in a hurry, inevitably we put excessive or incorrect pressure on cattle, which usually results in an unintended reaction from the cattle,” says Ron Gill and Rick Machen of Texas A&M University in a cattle handling paper.

Low stress handling is encouraged by the Beef Quality Assurance program. To learn more about BQA, check out the March 1014 issue of Drovers CattleNetwork. Photo courtesy of Boehringer Ingelheim.According to the two experienced cattleman, there are three simple ways to communicate with livestock. These are:

  • Sight
  • Sound
  • Touch

Sight being the most preferred means of communication. Since human noise can potentially cause more harm than good, it might be good idea to keep Charlie out of the back cattle pen as much as possible.

“Human noise is usually stressful and marginally successful in getting the desired result. Sound should be used as a secondary method and only used when sight is not adequate,” they say. “Distracting sounds shift their focus away from the desired direction.”

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