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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

Cattle Handling Part 1 Basic Cattle Handling

Cattle Handling Part 1 Basic Cattle Handling

Cattle Handling Part 1: Basic Cattle Handling

by Heather Smith Thomas of Salmon, ID

The key to handling cattle with the least problems is to train them to the way you need to work with them, such as being easy to handle on foot. Acquaint them with new procedures gradually, in a non-confrontational manner (just like training a horse). Introduce a new experience slowly. Put them in the corral a few times, or into the chute, without doing something unpleasant to them. If their first experience in a chute is painful (vaccination, dehorning) they may balk at going in there the next time. Walk them through a chute calmly, before they have to go in it for a painful procedure. If you live in a climate where you might have to put a cow in the barn to calve, gently herd your heifers into the barn (using a calm older cow to give them confidence and a feeling of security) or lure them in with feed, before you have to put one in there when she’s in labor for the first time and nervous and upset. Spend time walking quietly among your cattle in their pen or pasture when they are young, to get them used to people in general and to you in particular.

Cattle Handling Part 1 Basic Cattle Handling

Moving and herding cattle: The easiest way to move cattle — from pasture to pasture, into the corral, or down the road to another farm — is to lead them rather than drive them. Cattle that trust you will come when you call, and follow you anywhere. They know from proper training and past experience that every time you call them you’ll feed them or take them to a new pasture. If they are rewarded with a bit of feed, they are always easy to move. Even if you are taking them into the corral, a few flakes of good hay can be their reward for willingly following when you call.

If you’re moving untrained cattle and have to herd them rather than lead them, do it quietly and with patience and they won’t get excited and try to run off. If cattle become alarmed they are much harder to handle because they instinctively start thinking about getting away (as from a predator). They’ll run for the brush to hide or to a hole in the fence, or even crash the fence. They may not be thinking clearly enough to see the gate where you want them to go. Or, they may quickly make up their minds to NOT go through the gate into the corral because they’ve had a bad experience in there — and your pressuring them has aroused their survival instinct for flight.

The principle behind calm, efficient cattle herding is simple; don’t force them or alarm them. Put gentle pressure on them — approaching from a direction that encourages them to move away in the proper direction — and give relief from pressure when they do move. Calm cattle will let you approach fairly close and then they will start moving away.

Cattle Handling Part 1 Basic Cattle Handling

Flight zone: A cow has a certain amount of space in which she feels secure. This imaginary circle of space is much larger for a wild, insecure individual (she starts to move away from you before you get very close) than it is for a gentle, tame animal. A calm, tame animal will let you come quite close before she moves away, and a pet may have no flight zone at all, letting you come up and touch her.

When herding cattle, put pressure on their flight zone to encourage them to move. Your position in relationship to their body or to the herd will dictate the direction and speed they go. If you approach directly from the side, at a position behind the shoulder, they should move straight ahead. If you travel alongside them, they will continue moving until you get too far forward (near the front of the herd, or more forward than the shoulder of an individual animal) and then they will halt. If you approach the flank they will start moving again, or speed up. You can start them moving or make them go faster by coming closer to their flight zone. When they go the proper speed or direction, ease up (staying a little farther away from them) as a reward, and don’t press closer again unless they slow down too much or stop.

If they understand what you want them to do, and you give them time to figure it out (and to realize there IS relief from pressure when they cooperate), cattle are very easy to herd. Pressuring and release of pressure at the proper times will encourage them to move (or halt) and to go the direction and speed you desire. The herd will also stay together, moving as a group (rather than splitting and running in all directions) if you herd them calmly and don’t get them upset and excited. Best results are had when you move them at a walk, and stay out to the side of a herd, controlling the speed and direction of the leaders. The others will follow if the herd stays calm and relaxed.

Cattle Handling Part 1 Basic Cattle Handling

Low stress sorting: Sometimes you need to sort a group of cattle, as when weaning calves off the cows, sorting off an animal to treat for illness or injury, sorting steers from heifers when selling a group of calves or weanlings, etc. It’s easiest to sort in a small corral so the animals can’t run off — quietly moving the desired animals through a gate into another pen or letting some out into a pasture and leaving the ones you want in the corral. It always helps, however, if you have two pens for sorting, so that if the wrong animal gets past you and runs through the gate, it will still be contained in a pen and hasn’t gotten away into a large field.

When sorting cattle, it’s easiest in small groups so you have room to maneuver in the corral. If you have a large group to sort, split the group and sort half at a time — if you have a spare pen to hold the extra ones. When sorting a group, give cattle time to figure out what you want them to do, so you can encourage them to move toward the gate or chute without stress and commotion. Speak quietly and move slowly, to not upset them — giving the animal a chance to choose the proper direction or to see the gate.

Use their flight zone to advantage, stepping closer to them or backing away to influence the direction of their movement. When letting some through a gate and holding others back, put pressure on the ones you want to hold back and give more room to the ones you want to let by, to encourage them to move through the gate. If an animal is moving in the proper direction, do not chase her or prod her; she should not be punished for doing the right thing. Never poke or prod a cornered animal that has no place to go.

Don’t leave an animal in a pen by itself after you’ve sorted off the others. Even if it must stay by itself (to await the vet, or to be butchered), leave a companion animal with it, or in a pen next to it, for company — so it won’t become excited and frantic.

Cattle Handling Part 1 Basic Cattle Handling

Spotlight On: Book Reviews

Horse Sense for Plain Farming

Horse Sense for Plain Farming

Book Review – The New Horse-Powered Farm by Stephen Leslie: Working with horses is not something you can learn exclusively through watching DVD training videos and attending workshops and seminars. These things and experiences can be very useful as auxiliary aids to our training, but they cannot replace the value of a long-term relationship with a skilled mentor.

Haying With Horses

Hitching Horses To A Mower

When hitching to the mower, first make sure it’s on level ground and out of gear. The cutter bar should be fastened up in the vertical or carrier position. This is for safety of all people in attendance during hitching.

Making Buttermilk

The Small-Scale Dairy

What kind of milk animal would best suit your needs? For barnyard matchmaking to be a success, you need to address several concerns.

Woodstove Cookery at Home on the Range

An Illustrated Guide To The Wood Fired Cookstove

Illustrated guide to the wood stove and it’s accoutrements.

Old Man Farming

Spinning Ladders

You die off by passing away. You live on by passing on. I want to pass the culture of my life on slowly, over the ripening time of my best years.

Why Farm

Farming For Art’s Sake: Farming As An Artform

Farming as a vocation is more of a way of living than of making a living. Farming at its best is an Art, at its worst it is an industry. Farming can be an Art because it allows at every juncture for the farmer to create form from his or her vision.

Storey's Guide to Keeping Honey Bees

Storey’s Guide To Keeping Honey Bees

It is well known that the value of pollination and its resultant seed set and fruit formation outweigh any provided by honey bee products like honey and beeswax.

Starting Your Farm

Starting Your Farm: Chapter 5

You might think that your new farm is fenced all wrong, or that a certain tree is in the wrong place, or that a wet area would be better drained, or that this gully would make a good pond site, or that a depression in the road should be filled, or that the old sheds should all come down right away. Well maybe you’re right on all counts. But maybe, you’re wrong.

Art of Working Horses

Lynn Miller’s New Book: Art of Working Horses

Art of Working Horses, by Lynn R. Miller, follows on the heels of his other eight Work Horse Library titles. This book tells the inside story of how people today find success working horses and mules in harness, whether it be on farm fields, in the woods, or on the road. Over 500 photos and illustrations accompany an anecdote-rich text which makes a case for the future of true horsepower.

Training Workhorses Training Teamsters Driving Junipers Training

Driving: Juniper’s Training

A final sneak peak at the Second Edition of Lynn R. Miller’s “Training Workhorses / Training Teamsters.” Today’s excerpt, “Driving: Juniper’s Training,” is from Chapter 11, “Starting and Training Older Horses.”

Aboard the Planetary Spaceship

Aboard the Planetary Spaceship

SFJ Spring 2016 Preview: Edward O. Wilson’s new book, Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life, offers a plan for the problem of species extinction: the dominant species, man, must hold itself back, must relinquish half the earth’s surface to those endangered. It is a challenging and on the face of it improbable thought, expressed in a terse style. But his phrases are packed because the hour is late.

Retrofitting a Fireplace with a Woodstove

How to Retrofit a Fireplace with a Woodstove

Because the venting requirements for a wood stove are different than for a fireplace you need to retrofit a stainless steel chimney liner. A liner provides the draft necessary to ensure that the stove will operate safely and efficiently.

How To Dry Up A Doe Goat

How To Dry Up A Doe Goat

You are probably thinking why would I want to dry up a doe? If the plan is to rebreed the doe, then she will need time to rebuild her stamina. Milk production takes energy. Kid production takes energy, too. If the plan is to have a fresh goat in March, then toward the end of October start to dry her up. The first thing to do is cut back on her grain. Grain fuels milk production.

Honoring Our Teachers

Honoring Our Teachers

by:
from issue:

I believe that there exist many great practicing teachers, some of who deliberately set out to become one and others who may have never graduated from college but are none-the-less excellent and capable teachers. I would hazard a guess that many readers of Small Farmer’s Journal know more than one teacher who falls within this latter category. My grandfather, and artist and author Eric Sloane, were two such teachers.

Wheel Hoe

The Wheel Hoe: A Tool For Shallow Tillage

When we bought this little farm I soon realized I needed a wheel hoe. The size of the horse and tractor dictated space wasting wide rows in crop production and, to some degree, so does my two wheeled tractor.

Old Man Farming

Old Man Farming

Long after his physical capacities have dwindled to pain and stiffening, what drives the solitary old man to continue bringing in the handful of Guernsey cows to milk?

Plowing with the Single Horse

Plowing with the Single Horse

All other aspects being equal, the primary difference in plowing, comfortably, with a single horse is that the animal walks on unplowed ground immediately adjacent to the previous furrow, rather than in the furrow. This will cause the point of draft at the shoulder to be somewhat higher and will dictate hitching longer and/or higher than with the animal walking down 5 to 8 inches lower in the furrow.

Book Review Butchering

Two New Butchering Volumes

Danforth’s BUTCHERING is an unqualified MASTERPIECE! One which actually gives me hope for the furtherance of human kind and the ripening of good farming everywhere because, in no small part, of this young author’s sensitive comprehension of the modern disconnect with food, feeding ourselves, and farming.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT