Mothering Cattle

Posted January 14th, 2015 — Filed in Stockmanship

One of the cattle forums I monitor had a discussion about ear tagging calves at birth. Many of the contributors were adamant that you HAD to do this in order to know which calf belonged to which cow which prompted my reply …

This is another case of technology dumbing us down. Mothering up cattle is a skill that, from the sounds of the comments, is well on the way to being lost. We were at a large ranch in Texas a few years ago where Bud had spent the week working with the crew. The last day they gathered a very difficult pasture. The manager wanted 100 pairs sorted out of about 800 head to send to another ranch. Bud was able to do this quite easily, out in the pasture and sending the cuts through a gate into another pasture. Every one of the 15 or so cowboys who were there agreed there were no mis-matched pairs in his cut.

When we were working at the feedlot in Canada, the owner asked Bud to bring in a certain pair. We never worked with his cowherd and weren’t familiar with the individual animals. When Bud brought the cow and calf in the owner said “You have the wrong calf. The ear tags don’t match.” Bud said “I don’t know about the ear tags, but this is her calf.” And it was …

Then I got this message on my personal e-mail …

Thanks for all the input on Pharo’s forum! I was wondering how Bud paired up pairs? I’m just going to admit that my mind is blank on how you pair up pairs could you explain or is it on your videos that Terry ordered haven’t got clear thru them yet!

Hi Jerry, There isn’t anything specific about teaching you to pair up cattle in the video. This is something you need to observe when you are around your cattle. Pay attention and watch the interaction between the cow and her calf. Drive them a little ways and notice how they act towards each other in various circumstances.

It is very common practice to pair up cattle after driving cows and calves in big country. Even though the calf “met with its mother” on the drive, often it is disoriented when the herd gets to its destination and it will go back to where it nursed last. We were working with a ranch in New Mexico, driving about 700 head of cattle to their summer range. We went through several gates and had one particularly difficult creek to cross. It had very high banks and the trail down into it turned back and had a sharp slant to the bottom. They said the cows were no trouble, but the calves would miss the trail then run back and forth along the bank. They said it often took them an hour or more to get the calves across. We showed them how to start and drive the herd properly. When we got to the bad creek crossing the cows took their calves across with no problem. When we got to the area where they wanted to leave them, the owner left us and started pairing out the herd. I said “Bud, what is he doing?” Bud said “He’s making sure they are mothered up.” I said “I remember, we used to do that at Lone Pine, didn’t we?” About that time the owner came back and said “This is pretty foolish, they are already mothered up.”

This is kind of a long-winded reply but it explains why it is sometimes necessary to be able to know which calf belongs to which cow, but more importantly how important it is to learn how to move cattle long distances without mis-mothering them in the process.

Information From Our Videos

Posted December 5th, 2014 — Filed in Marketing, Stockmanship, Testimonials

From a friend in Iowa:    We have just recently gotten back into some calves and so far things are going well. We’ve been watching Yours and Buds video a lot lately and it never ceases to amaze us of the new things that we pick up on each time we watch the same video. Truly astounding that one can just over look things that they perceive as not pertaining to them. There is just so much information in there and each time we watch we are at a different level of learning and doing different things at the time. You both just keep on helping us, what awesome friends you have been.

I have often told people “You can watch our videos ten times and pick up new and valuable information each time you view them.”  Eunice – Springfield, MO

Dust and Exercise

Posted December 2nd, 2014 — Filed in Stockmanship

Question:    Here in SW Nebraska, we have had a very dry fall and winter so far coupled with some really warm days along with some wind.  This is not particularly unusual for us, but it does create a high level of health challenges in our feedlot setting.  On the one hand, the calves need to be exercised and worked with, but on the other hand the dust often just billows up around them.  On windy, low-humidity days, the whole yard can be quite dusty.  We often water down the pens for new incoming calves.  We see this as necessary but it is time-consuming and requires extra labor to get the job done (we are not equipped with big-guns and under-ground pressurized waterlines like some of the big yards). Putting down bedding or strawing the pens helps but doesn’t eliminate the whole problem, plus it does get expensive.  Those of you who have grass traps and grassy areas to exercise cattle have an advantage over those of us who don’t have that privilege.  So far, we just do the best we can with what we have to work with.  Any advice other than changing locations?

Answer:    I’ve heard Bud discuss this many times and he always figured the mental and physical benefits that “correctly exercising” the cattle outweighed the negative of inhaling the dust. In fact, getting them moving encourages coughing which helps to clear the lungs.

More on Placing Livestock

Posted November 2nd, 2014 — Filed in Stockmanship

I have come to the conclusion that most livestock don’t feel safe in their home pastures, no matter where they live, which is why, when Bud moved them,they were convinced that the place he left them was safe and the place they wanted to be.  The increase in production and the decrease in illness bolsters my feelings on this.  The fact that it makes the stock easier to handle and utilize your pastures better is frosting on the cake.  Bud felt that the modern way of moving animals with feed has created neurotic cows that instead of the cow taking stress off of her calf, actually  puts stress on it.  In our early ranching days you NEVER had a sick calf while it was on the cow.  Even those old wild cows that were gathered rough, handled rough in the corral and were turned back out would take their calves back home and show her calf that she was able to get her baby away from the bad situation and that they didn’t have anything more to worry about.

Many times we have left cattle and sheep (and reindeer) on a part of the pasture with rank grass where they walked over lush grass to go to water but would still go back to the area where Bud left them, or be content to stay in a pen out in the hot sun with the gate open for 3-hours before finally drifting out.  Some of these instances are on our website  Click on the “Herding” button.   When we were in Canada we were involved with a cow herd that summered in the “bush” in Northern Alberta.  The cattle up there want to come home to the hay in the corral at the first frost.  The area where we had our cattle was a path for about 20,000 head on their way home.   The guy we were working for wanted to keep his cattle there for another month so we saved a fenced pasture in the area to put his cattle in in the fall.  The only problem was it was a very dry year and all of the water in that pasture had dried up.  These were cattle that Bud and I had taken care of all summer.  We would drive them to a new area a couple of times a week and they always stayed together.  Anyway, when the neighbors cattle started their migration, we placed our cattle in the saved pasture, but had to leave the gate open so they could water at a little lake about a half mile from the pasture where we left them.  When it was time to take these cattle home they were still going back to the pasture where we left them.  Not one picked up with the cattle migrating to their home corrals, even though every other year they had always came home with the other cattle.

Rushing to Feed

Posted October 31st, 2014 — Filed in Stockmanship

Rushing to feed is mainly just a bad habit that should not be tolerated since this keeps the cattle stressed and focusing on when someone is going to change paddocks instead of grazing right up to the moment you tell them to move.  This also encourages the cow to forget about her calf.  Most people can correct this behavior in three or four pasture moves.  When  the cattle come to the gate too fast, or come to the gate without their calf with them, leave the gate closed and drive them away.  You don’t have to take them very far, just until they relax, then go back to the gate and try again.  The first time will probably take you a half hour or so, but by the third or fourth move when you change paddocks they will first go get their calf, then quietly walk through the gate and start grazing immediately instead of rushing to another part of the pasture. —- Eunice

Can you explain “drive them away”?  I’m thinking this is more of a side to side movement than a “driving cattle” as is conventionally understood? —- T.D.

Yes, move towards the cows in a zig-zag pattern. You must get closer each pass, even if it’s only six inches or so.  It does more harm than good to go back and forth in the same spot.  It is important to watch the movement of the cattle you are influencing.  As you walk to the right you will tend to turn the animal to the left.  As soon as you see this happening you must turn back to straighten it out.  Don’t try to go from one side of the herd to the other, just work back and forth about 4 or 5 steps each way until you get some straight movement going away, then you can widen out the area you are working to feed other cattle to this movement.  Moving back and forth puts a lot of pressure on animals to move away, but it is totally non-threatening so they are willing to turn their back to you to move off.   This is a pretty big subject to try to answer in an e-mail.  The $125 Stockmanship DVD set we sell explains it very well with diagrams and video.

Bud often said if he had a choice of either teaching a person the mechanics of how he works livestock, or convince them that it could be done, they would be better off if they believed it could be done – they would be able to figure out a way to do it. —- Eunice

Mixing Groups of Heifers

Posted April 24th, 2014 — Filed in Stockmanship

Question: . . . . We have three pens of calves, 100 head, any where from 450-600 lb. heifers. We have had them all about the same length of time 3-4 weeks. We have taken them for a couple walks in the 115 acre pasture. The question is, can we combine all the calves and take them all for a walk at the same time and then randomly divide them back into 3 pens? I heard some where they may develope pen mates? Is there any truth to that? Is there any harm in doing that? Would you guys ever do that?
Answer:    The calves will definitely have pen mates.  This is one of the reasons Bud was against having a sick  pen because a sick calf certainly didn’t need the upheaval of being pulled away from his friends and put in with strangers.  As far as asking if this will hurt healthy calves, I doubt if it will.  Especially, if by doing it this way you will take them for a walk more often.   If they are working well for you when you bring them back to the pens, they will probably stick together and end up in the same pen anyway.

“Settling” a Saddle Horse

Posted April 14th, 2014 — Filed in Horses, Stockmanship, Testimonials

Comment: . . . .   I had my best (but aged) saddle horse shipped here (2,000 mile trip with stays at new barns etc) and when he arrived he was in a real funk- he was listless, wondering around the pasture and not really recognizing me or my wife and not paying attention when I called him.  He was not really eating nor socializing properly with the other horses either.  I thought about his condition a little while and that I wanted to change it.  I have changed calves in a similar state many times but of course this is a horse.  Thinking back to the innumerable times I had to, when this low stress stuff was new to me,  think of cattle as horses, I decided to think of my horse as I do cattle then I could go to work.   I  put a rope on him, asked him to follow me, to turn left then right then backup then finally to stop and stand still. When his attention was more on me than his worries, I made him stand still (corrected him for wiggling etc) while he got a good brushing.  I curried him for some time as he needed it and then, after he was standing still on his own and calm,  let him go.  He immediately joined up with the other horses, stood calmly near them, hiked up a hind leg and was calm as could be.  Later he started grazing, but calmly now, not eating a bite then walking etc like before.   The next day he was still tired but acting again like a normal horse.  This experience made me think about proper handling-that it doesn’t just get the job done right, it doesn’t just produce great control- it really changes the animals in our charge.  I think the change that proper handling produces is deeper than I understand and maybe like (Tom Dorrance I think) said, deeper than we can understand.  If someone else out there has a horse shipped a long ways and it shows up stressed or if you work at a stable that receives horses, don’t just leave them alone, work them right. Now I have a happier horse, which makes a happier wife and thus a happier me, all just by taking his attention off his worries and troubles and on to me, then a pleasurable scratching and brushing.

Answer:    It’s amazing how working with Bud’s principals cause people to be more sensitive to everything and everybody around them.  It also teaches that you can do something about a problem even if you have no idea when you start.   One of Bud’s favorite comments was “Do something, even if it’s wrong!”

Settling Livestock

Posted March 29th, 2014 — Filed in Herding, Stockmanship

Most people who are wanting to learn how to place animals in such a way that they will stay, put too much emphasis on “settling” them after they get there.

Please read “Question About Placing Animals” in Bud’s March 15, 2012 posting where he emphasizes the importance of driving them properly to get to that place.  When you are near the spot you want them to stay, stop doing the things that drive the animals and start doing the things that slows or stops movement such as taking all of the pressure off of the back end, riding up along the side of the herd in the same direction they are going.  You can get in front and ride in the same direction as the herd is moving, slowing as they will let you, but you must go fast enough that they don’t try to get past you (if you are checking up movement in wild cattle coming out of a corral, it might be pretty darn fast).  It is important that the movement in the herd “dies a natural death.” You can stop their body from moving but that’s not the important thing.  You must cause their mind to want to stop.

If you arrive at the place you want to leave them – and they still want to move, realize that you should have started the slowing process sooner.  Continue on (you should know how far by the progress you are making at slowing the herd), make a proper turn and drift them back to where you want them.

You are not trying to physically put them anywhere, you are working on their mind so they want to be there.  This is why it is counter-productive to turn back animals that drift away.  No matter how gently you do it, in its mind you have stopped it from going where it wants to go.  You can get in front of the animal(s) and ride in the same direction it is going until it decides on its own that it wants to go back to the others.

Pull off and watch for a while.  Even if they are lying down or quietly grazing, but they are all pretty much headed in the same direction, they are telling you that there is still “movement” in the herd and they probably won’t stay.  If they are moving or lying in all directions it is a good sign that the movement in the herd has dissipated and they will probably stay there.

Posted February 24th, 2014 — Filed in Stockmanship

I’ve spent the last few days reading the material Whit Hibbard has on his website.  He has really done a good job of documenting Bud’s Stockmanship methods.  If you are a serious student of Bud’s livestock handling methods or just interested in some of the stories Bud told I think you will find the site well worth the money.

Good Visit with Stockmanship Friends!

Posted November 3rd, 2013 — Filed in Stockmanship

I just got back from a trip to Texas where I visited with Candi Cowden and Dawn Hnatow. Candi has just purchased a ranch a couple of hours NE of Dallas and plans on hosting Stockmanship Schools there in the future and asked if I would be willing to help them.

Bud and I went to Candi’s Crane, TX ranch for the first time in 1990. She has hosted several Stockmanship Schools in Midland, TX (one of which is the basis for the Stockmanship-Plus video) and has attended several more. She is not only a good friend, but an excellent Stockmanship student. Dawn Hnatow is partnering with her on this venture. Dawn is well qualified to teach Stockmanship. She worked with Bud for nearly all of the eleven years we were in Alberta as well as a couple of years after we moved to Texas.

I know there are many people teaching Bud’s methods. I haven’t seen any of their presentations so I don’t recommend any but Hand ‘n Hand Livestock Solutions (Richard McConnell and our daughter, Tina) but I am grateful for every one of them. There can’t be too many people preaching the gospel of Good Stockmanship.

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