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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 PST

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: Livestock

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 4

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 4

by:
from issue:

Over the last few years of making hay, the mowing, turning and making tripods has settled into a fairly comfortable pattern, but the process of getting it all together for the winter is still developing. In the beginning I did what everyone else around here does and got it baled, but one year I decided to try one small stack. The success of this first stack encouraged me to do more, and now most of my hay is stacked loose.

Irish Dexter Rose Veal

Irish Dexter Rose Veal

by: ,
from issue:

“Farm to Fork” food programs are a revival of the past. Big Horse Ranch & Little Cattle Company is now involved in developing “Old School” free raised Irish Dexter rose veal. We are trying to replicate ranching as it was 100 years ago. This is not a fast paced business venture; it does allow us to best use our ranch to provide old style food for those who are seeking food that has a history of quality.

Oxen Experiences

Oxen Experiences

by:
from issue:

Some things I have learned about working with oxen as with any other living thing is to treat them with some respect. Especially hump-backed cattle which I prefer. Be firm and gentle, but consistent, realizing you could be seriously injured if they chose. Be patient while teaching them what you want them to do, and then insisting every time that they do what you want them to do every time.

New York Organic Grazing Dairy

New York Organic Grazing Dairy

by:
from issue:

Our farm, here in the center of New York State, consists of 101 acres, about 90 in grass, the rest some woods and swamp. It is inhabited by forty-six jersey cows, twelve breeding ace heifers, one bull, and because it is calving season — an increasing number of calves. Also, four Belgian mares and a couple of buggy horses. Last, and possibly least — the farmer, farmer’s wife, and five grown children.

Raising Free Range Turkeys is a Joy!

Raising Free Range Turkeys is a Joy!

by:
from issue:

“Don’t let them out in the rain, they’ll stare up into it and drown…” Our experience with turkeys has been completely the opposite. While most poultry species aren’t exactly bright, we find that turkeys are lovely, personable, and most important for the self sufficient homesteader — extremely efficient converters of grain and forage into delicious meat. In 5 months, a turkey can grow from a few ounces to 20-30+ lbs.

Mini Horse Haying

Mini Horse Haying

by:
from issue:

The first mini I bought was a three year old gelding named Casper. He taught me a lot about what a 38 inch mini could do just by driving me around the neighborhood. He didn’t cover the miles fast, but he did get me there! It wasn’t long before several more 38 inch tall minis found their way home. I presently have four minis that are relatively quiet, responsive to the bit, and can work without a lot of drama.

Ask A Teamster Hauling Horses

Ask A Teamster: Hauling Horses

For a claustrophobic animal like the horse, being confined to a small box while speeding down the highway at 60 miles per hour is a mighty unnatural experience. Luckily, equines are adaptable animals and are likely to arrive in good condition – if – you make preparations beforehand and take some precautions. Here are some tips to help your horse stay healthy, safe, and comfortable while traveling.

Living With Dairy Goats

Living With Dairy Goats

by:
from issue:

Dairy goats are different than other types of livestock, even Angora goats. They are independent, unimpressed by efforts to thwart their supremacy of the barnyard (or your garden), and like to survey the world from an elevated perch. Though creatures of habit, they will usually pull off some quite unexpected performance the minute you “expect” them to do their usual routine. For the herdsperson who can keep one step ahead of them, they are one of the most enjoyable species of livestock to raise and ideal to small farms.

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.

Changing of Seasons

LittleField Notes: Changing of Seasons

by:
from issue:

We are blessed who are active participants in the life of soil and weather, crops and critters, living a life grounded in seasonal change. This talk of human connection to land and season is not just the rambling romantic musing of an agrarian ideologue. It is rather the result of participating in the deeply vital vocation that is farming and knowing its fruits first hand.

Horse Labor Instead of Tractors

Horse Labor Instead of Tractors

by:
from issue:

Three different parcels of land were committed for a series of tests to directly compare the impact of tractors and horses on the land. One side of each parcel was worked only with horses and the other only with tractors. There were measurable differences between each side of the worked areas; the land’s capacity to hold water and greater aeration were up to 45cm higher in areas worked by horses as opposed to tractors.

A Year of Contract Grazing

A Year of Contract Grazing

by:
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Contract grazing involves the use of livestock to control specific undesirable plants, primarily for ecological restoration and wildfire prevention purposes. The landowners we worked for saw grazing as an ecologically friendly alternative to mowing, mechanical brush removal, and herbicide application.

Portable Poultry

Portable Poultry

An important feature of the range shelter described in this circular is that it is portable. Two men by inserting 2x4s through the holes located just below the roost supports and next to the center uprights can easily pick up and move it from one location to another. Frequent moving of the shelter prevents excessive accumulation of droppings in its vicinity which are a menace to the health of the birds. Better use will be made by the birds of the natural green feed produced on the range if the houses are moved often.

Haying With Horses

Haying With Horses

If the reader is considering the construction of a barn we encourage you to give more than passing thought to allowing the structure of the gable to be open enough to accommodate the hanging of a trolley track. It is difficult or impossible to retrofit a truss-built barn, which may have many supports crisscrossing the inside gable, to receive hay jags. At least allowing for the option in a new construction design will leave the option for loose hay systems in the future.

Plant Poisoning in Horses & Cattle

Plant Poisoning in Horses & Cattle

by:
from issue:

There are hundreds of plants that can be toxic to livestock. Some grow in specific regions while others are more widespread. Some are always a serious danger and others only under certain conditions. Poisoning of livestock depends on several factors, including palatability of the plant, stage of development, conditions in which they grew, moisture content of the plant and the part eaten.

Horseshoeing Part 1B

Horseshoeing Part 1B

Since the horse is useful to man only by reason of his movements, his foot deserves the most careful attention. The horse-shoer should be familiar with all its parts. Fig. 3 shows the osseous framework of the foot, consisting of the lower end of the cannon bone, the long pastern, the two sesamoid bones, the short pastern, and the pedal bone.

The Cutting Edge

The Cutting Edge

by:
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In the morning we awoke to a three quarters of a mile long swath of old growth mixed conifer and aspen trees, uprooted and strewn everywhere we looked. We hadn’t moved here to become loggers, but it looked like God had other plans! We had chosen to become caretakers of this beautiful place because of the peace and quiet, the clean air, the myriad of birds and wildlife! Thus, we were presented with a challenge: how to clean up this blowdown in a clean, sustainable way.

Cultivating Questions A Horsedrawn Guidance System

Cultivating Questions: A Horsedrawn Guidance System

Market gardening became so much more relaxing for us and the horses after developing a Horsedrawn Guidance System. Instead of constantly steering the horses while trying to lay out straight rows or cultivate the vegetables, we could put the team on autopilot and focus our whole attention on these precision tasks. The guidance system has been so effective that we have trusted visiting chefs to cultivate the lettuce we planned on harvesting for them a few weeks later.

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