An email list I’m on received a question about excessive fighting within groups of bulls before being turned out with the cows. This was beyond just sparring, they were tearing up fences and doing other damage. Joel wrote a particularly great answer that I wanted to share with you all.
Bud Williams said he drove his bulls before turn out and it helped stop the fighting. By driving , I mean proper stockmanship that he taught, not just going out and pushing them around.
He would start this several weeks prior to turn out. He didn’t know exactly what it did, other than give them time to sort out their pecking order and learn to tolerate one another. When he did this, the fighting after turn out was greatly reduced, resulting in fewer injured bulls.
I turn my bulls out in late August, so I have started driving them a bit. The first day, I got them started and had them lined out going to water. The dominant bull was in front and after a while, he bowed his neck and started acting aggressive and looking back at the others. I rode in between him and the next bull (they were about 50 yards apart) and rode back and forth a couple of times to get him started walking. He relaxed and turned and walked away . When we got to the water, (about 1/2 mile), they all watered without fighting. I will do this a few more times before turn out. It doesn’t matter what direction, I just create movement and go with it. This really helps keep bulls manageable. As bulls get older, they tend to get cranky and harder to handle.
Another friend tells about his son-in law in Wyoming who moves cattle to summer pasture every spring about 12 miles. They finally resorted to hauling the bulls (50 head) since they were so much trouble and fought so much on the way. Tom encouraged him to drive the bulls as Bud had suggested. The first year he did it, the bulls went all the way with no fighting. One of the younger bulls got in the lead and lead the cows all the way.
Good stockmanship has many benefits and many things cannot be explained. I have no idea why driving bulls helps their attitude, but it does. I do not understand why driving fresh weaned calves helps them to wean faster and prevents sickness, but it does. Animals need (proper) interaction with people. Bud proved that many times over. We just need to do it.