Roughly Correct

Posted July 7th, 2009 — Filed in Herding

Thanks for sending me Bud’s comments on herding. I am particularly interested in the idea of placing cattle where you want them. The way I understand it, Bud works with the cattle by moving them around and getting them to trust him in so far as not penetrating the flight zone. When he places them in a spot he makes sure that the movement is taken out of the herd. Is the roughly correct? Can this technique be taught in a classroom or does a person have to work up to it?

I see great opportunities in controlling cattle by herding in some large allotments in the West. My concern is how much labor it will take and how to motivate the herder. My idea is to make the herder realize that he/she is the most important employee on the place and pay them accordingly. Any thoughts on this?

Thanks for the help.


Dear Jim:

Your conclusions are roughly (very roughly) correct. We move the cattle “correctly” not merely staying out of the flight zone. In fact, Bud pressures stock more than most people. The difference is that his position is where the animals want him to be.

One of the things we really emphasize in our schools now is the difference between good movement and bad movement in a herd. We have excellent video that we use in our schools which shows this much better than I can explain. Cattle that drive with good movement will be moving at a comfortable pace and going STRAIGHT. Calves will be with their mothers. This kind of movement will draw other cattle to it. If they go into a brush patch, they will come out on the other side with any animals that were in there to start with. If you have to leave them to work another area in the pasture, these cattle will continue on in the direction they are headed, or they will stop and graze. Cattle seem to feel very comfortable and protected when they are in that kind of a herd situation. When you get near your destination with that kind of movement, then check the movement up correctly so that the energy in the herd “dies a natural death” where you want them to stay, they will be content to call that home.

What we call bad movement is a herd of animals that are not moving out freely. Individual animals within the herd are moving across the line of travel or trying to cut back. There is often a lot of bumping and pressure from animals that the cowboys are turning back into the herd. This kind of movement will strip calves away from their mothers and cause even more commotion as they try to find each other. This causes the cattle to want to get away from the confinement of the herd. They don’t feel any comfort or safety in this kind of situation. Unless someone is with them every minute, they will cut back and scatter. When you are driving a herd with this kind of movement, other animals will not come to it. In fact they will often try to hide. When you arrive at your destination, the cow has only one thing in mind. That is to go back to where she feels safe, no matter how poor the feed conditions may be there.

We know several people who have learned to successfully reintroduce the herd instinct in their cattle and are able to place them where they want. I don’t know anyone who has been able teach a “hired hand” to do this. Working livestock like Bud teaches is very much against human nature. Ranch owners who can see the $ value (and especially if they are on the brink of bankruptcy or fear that if they aren’t able to keep the cattle where they should be they are going to lose their government leases) often have the motivation to put out the effort to learn to do this. A good first step toward learning is to go back over the video you bought from us in 1991. This is still the only thing we have available for sale that documents Bud’s methods, but it is really quite complete. If you will diligently try to work your stock this way, you will learn a lot about both your stock and yourself. Then if you can come to a two-day school when we are in the US next spring you will be in a much better position to fine-tune your abilities which is necessary for you to get the results you want. We are taking new video all the time and I think we have some exceptionally helpful footage to show what I am trying to tell you.