Much has been written and spoken about low stress ways to work animals. In the May issue of SGF there was an excellent article about animal husbandry. I would like to add some of my thoughts to it.
Seventy years ago we spent lots of time with our animals. Everything was done by hand. The animals were fed by a person not with a machine. The young people also worked. We helped clean the barn until we learned to do it right. We helped feed the animals until we learned to do it right. We learned to work the animals as correctly as the adults. This was very important, because the animals had to stay healthy. We had none of the drugs that are used today and virtually no vaccines for stress related things. Therefore, we kept them healthy and alive with good animal husbandry. The young people were like an apprentice. They learned by copying the older people. There was no structured way developed to teach animal husbandry. Copying worked well until they quit copying. Then we ended with no way to teach and almost no one to copy. This did not happen overnight, and it had lots of help.
After the Second World War, farmers started using more tractors and machinery so the young people were not needed as much. In fact they started to be in the way, so they were told to “go play.” This stopped the learning by copying. This also stopped the learning of the discipline to do a job right and to stay with it until it was right. Patience took a big hit here; this is a very important part of working animals. We need the patience to do the right thing until it works. If we do not know what the right thing is or if we don’t have the discipline to stay with the right thing, bad things will happen for the animals and for us.
As the people made more money, they started buying more things. This was good except as they bought more they wanted more, and this required making more money. Now the universities started getting involved, and this is never good. One of the many bad things they suggested was to get rid of the hired people. From a money point of view this may have been all right, but at the same time we were getting rid of the skilled people we needed. They should have told the owner to keep the hired people and teach them how to be more productive. We really needed those people for new people to copy.
Almost all of these new things that were happening were not good for the animals. Animals do not always respond well to equipment. They do respond well to people who do the right things. The livestock industry has two distinct groups of people, the ones that want to do a good job with and for the animals and the people who want to get the job done the faster the better. This last group is by far the largest. Animals usually do not respond well to speed. Therefore the faster they try to work the animals, it will almost always take longer and be much harder on the animals. When someone knows the proper way to work animals, it may look slower, but it will almost always take less time and it will be much easier and better for the animals.
Today, much of the industry depends on drugs and vaccines to help correct the things caused by bad stock handling. While this is better than nothing, it is not the best answer. What is needed is to teach better stockmanship.
While we don’t want laws to make people work animals better, we do need some way to make it happen. We have places and schools to teach how to do many things. Many of these take years to really learn. It would take a long time for someone to learn good animal husbandry, but there is no place that offers this opportunity.
What it really means is, if the livestock industry does not get busy and start providing some place to learn and get serious about implementing better ways to work animals, some outside entity will get laws passed that will force the industry to try to do something they will not know how to do.
If the industry would use good stockmanship, they would get the work done in less time. It would be easier on the animals and the people. There would be less health problems. This would help the industry look better to people who do not understand agriculture. Also they would be ready for things that may be forced on them.
Use good stockmanship, then you can Smile and Mean it.