Driving Cattle and Sheep in the Brush

Posted July 30th, 2015 — Filed in Stockmanship

Question:  Last year I took a course on low stress stockman ship from a mutual friend of ours: Tim Westfall. It was mostly theoretical, so I felt I needed an example, so I brought him along as I moved my flock of sheep and herd of cattle to the mountains. I’m in Baja California, Mexico; so most of our range is brush, thick chaparral. As we started moving my animals through the brush, I asked Tim what to do, so he mentioned moving in straight lines perpendicular to the movement of the herd. I remembered from the course he had given before all this techniques which worked great in open areas, but in mountainous brush country you can’t move in straight lines. I asked Tim what options did we have but he couldn’t help, he said it was very hard country. Then he said you might be the only person I could talk to, since you and Bud started out of the California brush. I hope you can give me some advice or refer me to someone with similar terrain.

Answer:   It is no different working livestock in the brush than it is in open country.  Your “straight lines” don’t have to be perfect, just don’t turn and follow behind the stock.  When gathering livestock in the brush with several people just have them ride across until they either don’t see any more animals or until they see the other person, then  ride back at an angle a hundred feet or so ahead.   From the start work at an angle that will aim the animals you are influencing toward the gate (or the way you want them to go), don’t try to bunch them up in rough country before you start driving them.  Don’t try to keep them out of the brush, just work at the proper angle to keep them  headed in the right direction.  When you drive stock this way, they won’t try to cut back.  We’d often have a pasture nearly gathered before we even saw any animals, though we could hear them moving out ahead of us.

You could probably learn a lot from Bud’s Stockmanship DVD set ($200 US funds).

Don’t hesitate to write again if you have a specific problem.