From Ranching for Profit Blog (2012/11/27) by Dave Pratt
Bud Williams, known world-wide as the authority on low-stress livestock handling, died Sunday, November 25, from pancreatic cancer. There is a brief message on Bud’s Stockmanship website (www.stockmanship.com) that reads, Thanks to all of you for helping us make things better for the animals.
There’s no doubt that Bud’s concepts and methods made things better for the animals, but they also made things better for the people working those animals. He taught hundreds how to “settle” livestock after shipping. He explained to his students how they could apply cell grazing without fences by “placing” livestock in pastures. He taught how to move herds faster and more calmly without an army of people. He developed and taught practices for working animals in corrals that didn’t rely on yelling, chasing or hot shots. He developed innovative facility designs like the “Bud Box.”
These are so well accepted now (even if they aren’t always well practiced) that it is easy to forget how controversial they were just 20 years ago.
I first heard about Bud from Stan Parsons at a Ranching For Profit school in 1988. Stan showed the class some amazing video of Bud walking a cow away from her calf and single-handedly loading a cattle truck using a Bud Box. I’d never seen cattle “flow” that quickly, effortlessly, and silently. He showed scenes of Bud working elk in corrals and it ended with a remarkable demonstration of walking a massive herd of reindeer into a ramshackle set of corrals. Stan concluded the presentation by saying that Bud’s techniques could reduce stress on animals and people, improve livestock performance, reduce costs and increase profit. Stan said that what Bud was teaching would be a breakthrough for any rancher open to learning these principles and techniques.
Not everyone was open to learning. The difficulty in learning something new often lies, not in understanding the new idea, but in letting go of the old one it may replace. Bud was an effective teacher, but our paradigms about the way we handle livestock are tightly held and difficult to suspend. I saw that first hand when I attended my first Bud Williams Stockmanship school a few years later. The concepts and techniques he presented seemed so simple and obvious, but went against just about everything I’d ever been taught about moving animals. Everyone I’d ever worked with used fear and force to make animals go here or there. Bud used positioning and motion, sometimes very subtle motion, to “let the animals do what he wanted them to do.”
Bud’s contributions to ranching and ranchers went well beyond the pasture. His unique take on marketing focused on the three things we have in our inventory: money, grass and livestock. Bud said that you’d never go broke having too much money or too much grass, but you sure could have too many animals at the wrong time. He observed that most ranchers “love their cows and hate their grass” and said that it ought to be the other way around. He argued that you can’t buy undervalued animals if you don’t have grass to put them on and, since our cows eat up that grass, we ought to care about our grass at least as much as we care about our critters.
Conventional wisdom has been that you make a profit when you sell something. Bud disagreed and taught that you make the profit only after you replace the inventory that you sold. He’d challenge his students that, every day whether we realize it or not, we either buy or sell every animal we have. If we choose not to sell an animal at the market price today, then we ought to be willing to buy her (and another one just like her) at that price today.
Bud and his wife Eunice, married for 60 years, made an amazing team. Bud could not have had the impact that he had without Eunice’s tireless support. When I first attended Bud’s stockmanship school, Eunice ran the projector. She added her own valuable insights to the class to reinforce the concepts Bud was teaching us.
Bud and Eunice were especially committed to the next generation of ranchers. While they’d always go the extra mile (or more) for people serious about applying their concepts, they’d go even further for young people who were just starting out.
Several Ranching For Profit Alumni transformed their businesses using Bud’s marketing and stockmanship principles. It’s hard to think of anyone who’s touched as many people (and animals) as powerfully and positively as Bud. While his influence survives in capable hands, he will be missed. Nearly everyone I meet who worked with Bud has a story to tell about the experience.
Bud’s Influence Lives On
Fortunately Bud’s influence will live on through the people he’s influenced. Bud’s daughter Tina and her husband Richard McConnel offer courses on stockmanship and low stress livestock handling.
Steve Cote’s book Stockmanship: A Powerful Tool For Grazing Lands Management, which Bud reviewed and approved, does as good a job as a book can do describing Bud’s principles and techniques.
University of California, Livestock & Range Advisor, Roger Ingram, spent a sabbatical working with Bud to better understand his stockmanship principles. Roger wrote Low Stress Livestock Handling on Pasture and Range which does a great job of summarizing many of Bud’s stockmanship principles. • 11/27/2012 4:07 PM Stocker Steve wrote: Bud and Eunice were the real deal. I spent a two on one day with them in Bowie several years ago, and it was delight. I struggled with some of the marketing and handling concepts but still made huge improvements. “know yourself” “sell-buy” “Do your cows like you?” “What do your animals want to do?”
God bless you Bud. • 11/28/2012 4:16 AM tauna powell wrote: Well written! My husband and i and our three young children spent the day with Bud and Eunice in Bowie, TX learning his teachings on animal handling and marketing – there is no doubt we handle stock more quietly and with much great efficiency now. May Yah bless and be with Eunice and Tina as they transition this difficult time….. • 11/28/2012 7:28 AM Sarah wrote: Bud Williams taught many of us how to understand cattle better. He truly did make the lives of animals better – Thank you Bud and Eunice for sharing your time, talent and knowledge with us all. May you live on in the students and producers you have influenced. God Bless. • 11/28/2012 7:48 AM Mark Cook wrote: I read Cote’s book and found it immensely helpful. I recently attended a two day training by Tina & Richard and found that to be very helpful for fine tuning my understanding of the techniques. The methods work very well. I never met Bud but am grateful for his insight and influence on the industry. • 11/28/2012 8:50 AM William Bradley wrote: I attended Bud & Eunice’s stock handling school and also their marketing school, and I don’t even own cattle– my brother (who does) got me interested. Even my mother attended. I do own grass. I thought about Bud throughout the drought of 2012. It is humbling, but also liberating, to learn that most everything you were taught about livestock handling is not only wrong but destructive. Now I laugh during western movies showing cattle drives. The world has a hole in it this week, that will not soon mend. My heart goes out to Eunice. Rest easy, Bud. • 11/28/2012 5:24 PM mert taylor wrote: I attended 2 of bud’s schools one here in canada and one in texas, as well as read steve cote’s book, the first time I attended Bud’s school I have to admit I had difficulty embracing all of his concepts, some made total sense and some required adjusting some paradigms, after reading steve cote’s book and talking to him I attended another of Bud’s schools and at this point realized what I had failed to accept first time around was the missing links to effective livestock handling, I value the insight and knowledge he imparted to me and all the others who have learned from him, I appreciated his ability to see it from the animals point of view and his sense of humor was second to none.