I wrote this in answer to a post on Kit Pharo’s list, but thought it might be of interest to viewers of this site.
At the risk of being the person with a hammer and looking at every problem as a nail . . .
A great many handling and health problems in livestock stems from the fact that most of our livestock are prey animals and we are predators. No matter how slow or gentle or sneaky (dart guns) we are in moving or treating our animals, they continue to be stressed by that very fact. Bud learned how to handle animals in such a way that they don’t consider us a predator. He probably put more pressure on the animals he worked than most people, since he expected crisp, energetic movement from them, but his body language and angle of pressure was such that their instinctive reaction was to go the way he wanted them to go.
Bud and I spent the first years of our married life working on large mountain ranches in n/w California. It was unheard of to have a sick calf while it was on the cow. No matter how badly the cattle were gathered and handled in the corral at spring roundup, when they were turned back out the cow was able to convince her calf that she could take care of things and there wasn’t anything more to worry about. Now that most people never teach their cattle to drive and are moving them with feed, which necessitates getting the cows so psyched up that they are not in a normal state of mind, they are actually putting more stress on their calves instead of taking it off.
I’m sure Bud irritated a lot of people when, addressing a specific problem, he told them to “Work with your animals and do what they tell you they need. There is no way I can write you a recipe.” Richard and Tina say “Drive your animals.” They are absolutely right, and Bud eventually got around to saying that this is the first step, during the conversation. I prefer to say “Take them for a walk” since to me, this tends to put a person in the right mental attitude to do the animals some good, and this was what Bud would tell me he was going to do when I asked him where he was going.
I don’t think most livestock feel comfortable anywhere in their pastures. There are some places they feel less uncomfortable and that’s where they hang out. On the big set-stocked ranches I mentioned, certain cows could always be found in certain areas. As soon as we started working them better they stopped doing this. When Bud put cattle in the corral, unless you drove them out, they would stay there, with the gates open until thirst or hunger caused them to leave. Bud seemed to make them feel that this was the safest, most comfortable place they could be. If you are interested, go to our website www.stockmanship.com and click on the “Herding” button. Especially read “My Two Cents Worth” posted July 12, 2009 for several incidents that make me believe this is true.