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
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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.