Proper Stockmanship

Posted March 29th, 2017 — Filed in Stockmanship

While doing some spring cleaning I ran across this item Bud wrote many years ago.

My method of working livestock consists of learning to “read” what the animal is telling you and change your position so that she wants to go where you want her to go.  It is important that the animals do not consider you a threat to them. People have written articles about my Stockmanship methods, but if they use predator/prey examples you can be sure that they do not understand the concept at all. The last thing I want my animals to do is to think of me as a predator. My goal is not only to work livestock with very little stress but also to take existing stress off of them. By handling the animals this way, you will be able to get the job done more quickly, efficiently and with less cost than by the traditional methods. Some of the other by-products are increased performance and reduced health problems in the animals, as well as still being on speaking terms with the family after a day of working livestock together.  Do not make the mistake of thinking that I “baby” animals.  I probably pressure livestock more than most people.  The difference is that I pressure them how and where they want to be pressured.

The proper positioning and pressure application when moving cattle, sheep and other livestock is what makes them feel comfortable and willing to stay where you put them on the range. This same thing is what makes feedlot cattle gain better with less health problems or increase a dairy herd’s production. It is what makes a cow perceive you as a non-enemy so she isn’t “on the fight” if you need to handle her baby calf, or get overly upset when you wean. In other words, the techniques are the same when you are working any kind of livestock.  An elk or bison (or wild cow) will tell you that you are “close enough” when you are further away from her than a gentle cow or sheep will do, but she is telling you the same thing if you will only see it.

In order for you to learn to work livestock the way that I do, you must first change your attitude.  This will probably be the most difficult thing I will ask you to do.

OLD—I’m going to “MAKE” that animal do what I want.
NEW—I’m going to “LET” that animal do what I want.

OLD—That stupid  (#%$&, miserable, ornery, wild, hateful . . .) cow  (calf, bull, sheep, pig, goat, horse . . .) broke back  (missed the gate, charged me, got sick, died . . .)
NEW—What did I do to cause the animal to react that way?

The control we can have over animals is amazing.  Thirty years ago I was considered pretty good at handling problem livestock.  Knowing what I do today I wonder how I even held down a job.  To me, the exciting thing is knowing that I have only scratched the surface.  I am learning and improving every day.  You can too.

When trying to control animals the old way, you are giving up any chance of getting the kind of control I am talking about.  Forget all of your excuses:
She is afraid of the gate.
She remembers getting hurt in the chute.
She has never been through the chute before.
Etc., etc., etc.

Believe that she is responding to what you are doing right at this moment!
I would like to talk to you about some of the things I have learned about handling livestock.  The methods I use have proven themselves with reindeer, elk, buffalo, camels, fallow deer, horses, hogs, sheep, goats and poultry, as well as with beef and dairy cattle.  While my method of stockmanship is quite simple, it is very difficult for people to learn because it often goes against human behavior.  Remember, as a stockman, you are supposed to be the smart one.  It is up to you to change to accommodate the animal.

I have had the good fortune to observe people working livestock from northern Alaska and Canada to Central America, from Oregon and California in the west to Kentucky in the east.  Everyone used the same basic principle.  That is, to go out and chase the animals from where they were, to where the people wanted them to go.  By now, you probably realize that I don’t think that is the best way to work animals.  The traditional method of driving livestock consists of trying to frighten the animal away from the person, hopefully in the direction the person wants it to go.  Using fear and force to move animals is very stressful to them.  My method takes the animal’s natural behavior into consideration, but makes us change our natural behavior.

There are certain things animals want to do as long as they are in a normal mental state.
1. They want to see what is pressuring them.
2. They want to move in the direction they are headed.  This may seem obvious to you, but if this is the
case, why would you move behind an animal to make it go when moving into the animal’s blind spot
will cause it to turn to see you?
3. They want to follow other animals.
4. They have very little patience.

Proper position on your part and nothing more is enough pressure to allow you to move livestock any place they are physically able to go.  By you being in this position, the animals will want to move in the desired direction.  Excessive pressure will put the animals into a panic condition where none of these things apply.

Loud noise that is directed to the animal is almost always excessive pressure, especially yelling, revving the motor on your 4-wheeler, etc.  It is not only stressful to the animals, but it is detrimental to your objective.  They are quite willing to accept general noise such as banging chutes and normal motor sounds.

As pressure is applied to move the animals, some of it must be released when they move.  Either by you stepping back, or by the fact that they moved ahead and that takes some of the pressure off.  Do not lose contact with the animal by releasing all of the pressure.  Constant pressure with no let up, or excessive pressure is what panics animals.

Do not apply pressure from behind an animal.  Now listen to what I said.  “Do not APPLY PRESSURE from behind.”  You can walk along behind livestock all day and not cause any problem as long as you aren’t pressuring them.  There is always a correct position.  This spot moves as the animal moves.  The angle you move in relation to the animal determines if you will maintain the proper position.  The speed you move is important, but not as important as the angle.

Read your animals.  They will tell you what your position should be.  Don’t try to anticipate what the animals will do as this will put you out of position and likely cause the very thing you are trying to prevent.   “Whatever you anticipate, you will create”.

Moving back and forth while getting closer to the animals will tend to cause them to move away from you.

Moving parallel to livestock in the same direction the animals are going will tend to slow the animals down.  This is true if you are at the front, the side or behind the herd.  This is very helpful if you are trying to settle animals that have too much movement.  It is very detrimental if you are driving a herd since you tend to kill the movement that you are trying to generate.

Moving parallel to livestock in the opposite direction (front to rear) will tend to speed them up.  Animals want to continue in the direction they are headed.  When they see you coming, they will try to hurry past you.

I am not a good enough writer to be able to write a “How To” book.  The 5-hour DVD set that Eunice and I have for sale of our presentation at the 1990 Stockman Grass Farmer Grazing Conference is quite complete as far as teaching my Stockmanship methods though it is far from being a professional product.  However, at this time it is the only thing available.

If   you have watched our video or attended one of our schools . . . .

If   you have truly changed your basic attitude about livestock as I have suggested. . . .

If   you will look to your animals to see if your position is right or wrong. . . .

If   you will take responsibility for what the animal does. . . .

Then   you will be able to continue learning on your own.

Low-stress Livestock Handling Clinic

Posted March 20th, 2017 — Filed in Stockmanship

An Introductory and Intermediate-Level Clinic

When: April 27 & 28, 2017
Where: K Barr C Ranch. Burbank, Oklahoma.
Instructors: Dawn Hnatow and Whit Hibbard
Details and registration: dawnhnatow@me.com
Fee: $425/person includes lunch both days

Low-stress livestock handling has been shown to improve performance (i.e., weight gain, conception rates, milk yield, immune function and carcass quality), as well as efficiency, safety, animal welfare, and quality of life, all with no additional inputs!

This clinic will focus on answering three basic questions: (a) What is low-stress livestock handling?, (b) Why is it important?, and (c) How do we do it? It will cover the fundamentals (including mindset, attitude, “reading,” “working” and “preparing” animals), principles, techniques, and practical applications (including receiving, driving, gathering, weaning, riding for health, corral work, chute work, scale loading, and loading out).

Stocker Loss

Posted December 11th, 2016 — Filed in Stockmanship, Testimonials

After reading this post on Kit Pharo’s list I received permission from Doug Ferguson to post it to our website.
Eunice

I buy several thousand a year. Typically buying a load or two every couple weeks. Most of these calves are weaned on the truck and have a 6 to 16 hour ride to get here.

Years ago I used to only buy them locally and had a death loss around 3% and a pull rate near 35%. Today on the long haul cattle I have a death loss near 1.5% and pull rate under 10%.

For me the biggest thing was attending a Bud Williams stockmanship school. It really changed my results

I talk to many large feedlot operators and pharma reps. They tell me that death rates are rising and pull rates are too. They tell me that some are experiencing 3.5% to 5% death loss. Pull rates can be near 80%! So sad.

The feedlot boys blame these problems on the cow calf guy.

I think we have wonderful drugs today. If a calf is pulled and treated in a timely manner they bounce back very quickly. One thing I always do if I have to pull one is to give it a Probios bolus. If it is not running a temp I may skip giving it a dose of antibiotic and just give it the Probios and that does the trick. Sweet deal when you can treat one for 50 cents instead of $30.

I am wondering about vaccines right now. I have noticed that when I use some of these combos available today that is seems to drag the calves down a bit, and they back off feed a couple days and that’s when my problems start. I am currently experimenting with dropping the pasturella from my protocol. I have noticed so far on 300 head that they didn’t back off feed, despite being dehorned, castrated, vaccinated, and branded, and I have only pulled seven.

Some time back in this discussion group there was a topic of buying wild cows in sale barns. If I recall correctly someone talked to the sale barn vet and asked him if cattle were getting wilder. I recall that the vet thought it was because people don’t spend time with their animals like they used to. After attending the stockmanship school years ago I think he nailed it. One of the reasons I think the results are getting worse in the feedlot phase is because they don’t have the man power, the time, or the skill/knowledge to deal with “high risk” cattle. I have had truck drivers unload here. They tell me before any of the calves walk off “Watchout! These things are nuts” That same driver will be back in a couple months and load out the same calves. They are always amazed at how much the calves have settled down.

I remember very well the first time I met Bud. He asked me why I was there, and what I wanted to learn from him. I told him I wanted to learn all about this low stress handling thing. What he said next was key, “Stress!? Why do you want to stress them? Low stress is still stress” At that moment I had a paradigm shift. I used to be like everyone else and thought the answer to the health problems was in the science and technology, we needed better drugs. Now I think the answer is how do you greet those calves when they walk off the truck, and how welcome do they feel the first few days. That sounds silly to people, but it is so much easier to make money when you keep them healthy and there is nothing silly about making money (except to the mainstream guys).

Doug Ferguson – SE Nebraska

Stockmanship in Hawaii!

Posted November 6th, 2016 — Filed in Stockmanship, Testimonials

Hi Eunice-

Susan and I completed a stockmanship school here in Maui for the Maui Cattlemen’s and for the Haleakala Ranch- 4 days of training. Riders from the Parker, Haleakala and other ranches attended (about 25). Greg Friel is the foreman at the Haleakala and is to be commended for his efforts to have the whole ranch (and neighboring ones) practicing good stockmanship.

His riders are doing a good job already and we took them through getting all the stock calm, driving and turning well and then thru placing and they did place a herd on two occasions successfully. They can’t do rotational grazing with electric fence the way they want because the axis deer wreck it so he wants the riders to place the stock. He has a crew now that can do it and in fact did do it. It was also a good lesson in how a few animals can prevent placing from working, as when Greg sorted off a few of the most sensitive ones, the riding crew got to see how cattle can handle so well when its done Bud’s way. It was really a pleasure to work with men so interested and dedicated to good stockmanship and the land and their animals.

Attached is a picture, Susan and I have never been to Hawaii and it has been a pleasure, a lot of work but a pleasure. The picture is Haleakala Ranch riders at the training. Hope you are well,

Steve and Susan Cote – Idaho

Steve and Susan Cote in Hawaii

Mastitis in Saskatchewan Dairy

Posted September 21st, 2016 — Filed in Stockmanship, Testimonials

As fall approaches and summer is ending this means the end of field work and more time to spend in the barns working with cattle. However until this point it has been a 6 week rat race of silaging, baling and hauling manure. Therefore the cows had been virtually left to fend for themselves on auto-pilot.

Last Wednesday I got back from a trip to Alberta, to our farm and started in the barn at 5am for morning chores. Where I found on our robotic dairy reports that 19 Cows either had mastitis or had a very good chance of contracting it, based off of their Somatic Cell Count (SCC) reports. With further investigation I found that 9 of these animals were showing physical signs of mastitis. When I asked dad about what was going on, he just shook his head and said that none of the cows were responding to treatments anymore and that he had basically given up on the situation.

I could obviously see the frustration and fatigue that my dad and the hired hand had, who had been in the barns for the last 6 weeks without reprieve. As fate would have it, on the way home from the previous trip I had the opportunity to talk to Eunice. We talked about a different subject all together than this, however there was one comment that stuck in my mind. We were discussing how sensitive animals were to our thoughts, mind sets, attitudes etc. And Eunice laid it out in about as black and white terms as I had ever heard it explained. She said, “Paul, of course they can read our minds, otherwise they’d all be dead.” Of course meaning if prey animals couldn’t tell what their predators were thinking. But that is everything right there in that statement. That’s how susceptible and sensitive they are to us.

Needless to say I gave the hired man the rest of the week off and sent mom and dad on a weekend vacation. I then did nothing else but go about my chores and picked one quality I liked about ever cow I came in contact with, while handling her or even while simply scraping stalls.

When dad and the hired man showed back up Monday our SCC report for the herd showed 2 cows with a low conductivity reading indicating a mild chance of contracting mastitis. These two animals were in fact the two cows with the worst physical symptoms 5 days earlier. I should also mention none of the 19 were treated with any medication, it was just a shift in mind sets and the best handling I knew how to apply.

Mastitis is just an infection and a healthy animal in a good environment should be able to fight that off on her own. But with the stress, fatigue and I’m sure, not the most proper handling that was been done by us the humans, before the time off, the cows simply couldn’t do it. I just tried to give them the opportunity. Many Thanks to Eunice!!

Great Article About Stockmanship!

Posted August 10th, 2016 — Filed in Stockmanship

After Richard and Tina put on a two-day Proper Stockmanship School in Red Deer, Alberta, one of the attendees wrote this very good article about what they taught:

Proper stockmanship, the Bud Williams’ way

Stockmanship Learning Curve

Posted April 8th, 2016 — Filed in Stockmanship

I’m pasting below a story that I received from the wife of a ranching couple who took one of my beginning stockmanship clinics. They both really bought into it and tried hard to implement what they learned, and they had many successes. Then the wheels fell off. This is their story and how they remedied it. I think it’s very illustrative of what probably happens to a lot of people, and the readers of the subscription site might be interested in it. Your call.

Whit Hibbard – Stockmanship Journal
__________

A couple weeks after you were here, we had the vet booked to preg check a large bunch of our cows in the afternoon. We thought it would be a great idea to ride out in the morning and get them in early so we could do a dry run through the chute before the vet showed up.  We were feeling pretty confident since everything had been going so swimmingly with all our new found low-stress skills.  All we needed to do was gather them from the pasture they were in, bring them through one gate, and travel another two-hundred yards into the corral. Simple right?

Well, things were a little rocky from the start. The cows just didn’t seem to want to line out. It was a bit frustrating, but we kept our cool (for the most part), eventually got them through the gate and we thought we were golden. Just a short distance to the corral! However, the cows had other plans. As soon as they got through the gate all the cows wanted to do was head west, away from the corral, or stop completely and graze. We either had a lot of movement going the wrong direction, or no movement at all and Nathan and I were getting spread thin. This went on for a long time with us getting nowhere until I finally lost it. I rode back to our house (which is close by if you recall), tied my horse to a fence post, and hopped in our ATV. I needed something with a little more gas! I proceeded to, as Nathan described it later “mad max it around” (if you’ve seen the movie you will understand that reference). It felt great, at least for the short term. I hooped and hollered and nearly ran cows over. It wasn’t pretty, but I lined those bitches out! We finally made it to the corrals. Five minutes later the vet showed up. We got through the rest of the day but the cows really didn’t work so great. They were nervous and stressed. So were we. To be honest the cows were probably behaving about how they normally do when we preg check, but this time it just seemed like a personal defeat.  We had such high hopes for something better. We ended the day feeling deflated. Why hadn’t our new tools worked? Nathan and I mulled it over throughout the evening. It really bothered us.

We had plans to move them back up to their fall mountain pasture the next morning, which is what is done every year after we preg check. It marks the end of our fall cow work. However, both of us decided we could not leave things like this. So, instead, the next morning we got up and did it all over again. However this time, we kept our heads, didn’t freak out when things weren’t working, paid attention to what the cows were telling us, and adjusted our movements and actions accordingly. We made sure to get the cows moving together smoothly and cohesively before we went through the gate, so when we did finally go through it, we had them working for us before we even got to the corral. It felt good and we are so glad we took the extra day to make the situation right.

Long story short, I can understand why people resort back to what they know and are comfortable with. When you get excited about something new, and then you perceive it to have failed you, it feels so much worse than if you never had the high expectations to begin with. I do not think low-stress handling failed us. I think that day was a combination of us not reading the situation correctly and adjusting our strategy appropriately, and the cows being used to a different way of being handled for many years. Just like with a horse, they need to be retrained, and so do we. Although it sucked, we probably learned more from that failure than all the successes we’ve had. I don’t know how to get that point across in your clinic, but I’m willing to bet that’s why a lot of people don’t stick with it.

Bud Box Question from South Africa

Posted April 5th, 2016 — Filed in Stockmanship

I have 2 questions regarding the Bud box.

1. The first relates to cattle. I have an existing squeeze chute next to a wool shed wall. I want to add a Bud box to it. Because of the layout I cannot make the “Bud Box” in such a way that the cattle go past the chute gate. They will however enter right next to it. The attached sketch will show the layout. Do you think it would still work?

2. The next question relates to sheep. Will a “Bud box” work for sheep also (to fill a squeeze chute) and if so what would typical dimensions be?

…. South Africa

Answer:    The Bud Box is actually a philosophy more than a pen of certain dimensions.  If it is built like Bud suggested, (12-14 feet wide, 20-30 feet long with gates in the proper places) it pretty well forces a person to be in the right place.  I’ve watched many U-Tube videos of people using a Bud Box and I’ve never seen it actually worked properly.  The person bringing the stock in must pause to shut the gate, then they start down the side to get behind the stock, but before they can get too far out of position, the animals have already started to go past them and into the single-file chute.  You can use the same principals with a pen of any configuration.  So-  Yes, I think the sketch you sent will work OK.  As you enter the pen with the livestock you should lightly pressure them against the 12’ wide dead-end.  Your position will be very near the opening to the single file chute.  Most people don’t have any problem getting livestock they are driving, to try to “cut back.”  This is what you are doing when you pressure them where there is no place they can go.  When they “cut back” they want to keep their eye on you so your position at the entrance to the chute will cause them to want to go up the chute.  (See my July 14, 2010 posting)

Even if you were using a typical crowd pen where the animals come in one end and the opening to the single-file chute is at the other, you can still use the “Bud Box” principals.  We have worked lots of cattle and sheep in this type of pen.  When bringing them in, we give them a chance to go straight ahead into the chute, but if they hesitate we let them go back by us, see that the gate they came in is no longer open, then pressure them against that gate.  At this point you work it just like a proper Bud Box.  This works very well, it just takes this one extra step to get in the right position.

Sheep work great using the Bud Box principals.  Dimensions will depend on the size of the flock.  The only thing that would need to be different is the width of the single-file chute.

Riders “Flanking” the Leaders

Posted January 15th, 2016 — Filed in Stockmanship

Question:      Eunice, Tina, and Richard,
Each winter we move our herd of about 275 cows, heifers, and replacements, frequently, in one mob, several miles from one crop residue field to another. How do we keep the leaders, and thus the entire herd, on the road or on a good path across and open field. What frequently happens is that our riders or atv riders ride up upon the leaders to keep on the path, which causes the leaders and then the entire herd to slow down, stop and mill aound. This is accompanied by lots of shouting and arm waving. We should and could do better. What say you?

Answer:  I don’t have you in my database, but since you mentioned Tina and Richard I assume you have been to one of their schools. This is too broad a question to answer in an e-mail unless you have had some exposer to Bud’s methods. I would feel more comfortable answering if you had been to one of Bud’s schools or have watched either of the videos I sell on Stockmanship, but here goes …

You should not open the gate from the old pasture until you have gathered the cattle properly and they were acting “right.” If they come to the gate agitated and not mothered up you should drive them around the pasture until they are working for you. Then open the gate. If some of the cattle are liable to go too fast you can put a person in the lead to adjust their speed
(See the September 27th, 2015 posting on our website “Checking up the Herd.”) This might be a good idea anyway to help set the direction. The cattle should be driven by going back and forth IN STRAIGHT LINES behind the herd, adjusting the angle to get the proper direction. No one should be on the side of the herd.

Eunice

 

Checking Up the Herd

Posted September 27th, 2015 — Filed in Stockmanship

Question:  Regarding the herd you told me about that just wants to take off on a high lope –

Answer:  The rider in the lead should not try to MAKE the cattle go slower. He is “JUST THERE.” He must stay in front even if he has to gallop his horse in order to do it. If you try to MAKE them slow down they will just split up, or at least they will want to. Like I’ve told you before, cattle have a one-track mind. It is important that you put them in a position where they can settle down mentally and make a rational decision. With the rider doing nothing distracting, but being JUST THERE the cattle have a chance to decide on their own (let, not make) that there is no reason to keep going. Soon they will stop, but be aware of the movement in the herd because they will likely start moving in another direction and you want to be in position to be in front of the movement.

We nearly always do this when we turn cattle out of a corral. We don’t want them to take off and think they “got away.” That is the kind of thing that often causes the kind of behavior in a herd like you mentioned.

This is different than “leading” a herd of normal cattle. You must still “stay in the lead no matter how fast” but you continually slow down and “test” the herd. You never move back and forth to block cattle from going past you, you do everything from in front by varying your speed. It is important that you have a horse that you can slow down without him swinging sideways. By working the bit with each stride you can teach your horse to keep the same rhythm while either shortening or lengthening his stride. The cattle should have the same view of his rump at all times. If you are coming to a cross-roads and the cattle are working well for you, you can slow up until they are really pushing you, then speed up and “suck” them right past. Cattle that leave the road are the responsibility of someone else. Your job is to get the cattle to follow you.

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