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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: Farming Systems & Approaches

Cayuse Vineyards

Small Farm, USA: Cayuse Vineyards

by:
from issue:

How did the grape find itself here on the outskirts of Milton? If you ask one man, Christophe Baron, the answer is simple. “It’s the cobblestone. (The ground) reminds me of home”. For Christophe, home refers to France and the stone littered earth from which many famous French wines grow. Hailing from a family of vigneron champenois, Mr. Baron came upon this corner of the state by chance, saw its signature geology, and decided to establish his domaine right here in northeast Oregon.

Fjordworks: A History of Wrecks Part 1

Fjordworks: A History of Wrecks Part 1

I am certainly not the most able of dairymen, nor the most skilled among vegetable growers, and by no means am I to be counted amongst the ranks of the master teamsters of draft horses. If there is anything remarkable about my story it is that someone could know so little about farming as I did when I started out and still manage to make a good life of it.

Prosperous Homesteading

Prosperous Homesteading

Prosperous Homesteading at FreeSong Farm by Greg Jeffers prosperoushomesteading.blogspot.com

Biodynamic Meeting at Ruby and Amber’s Organic Farm

Biodynamic Meeting at Ruby and Amber’s Organic Farm

by:
from issue:

One weekend I attended a Biodynamic meeting at Ruby and Amber’s Organic Farm in Dorena, Oregon, in the Row River Valley, just east of Cottage Grove. I always enjoy seeing other food growing operations, as this is such an infinitely broad subject, there is always much to learn from others’ experiences. At this farm, draft horses are used for much of the work.

Chicken Guano: Top-Notch Fertilizer

Whoever thought I’d be singing the praises of chicken poop? I am, and I’m not the only one. Chickens are walking nitrogen-rich manure bins.

Raised Bed Gardening

Raised Bed Gardening

by:
from issue:

Raised beds may not be right for everyone, and our way is not the only way. I have seen raised beds made from rows of 5’ diameter kiddy pools, and heard of a fellow who collected junk refrigerators from the dump and lined them up on their backs into a rainbow of colored enameled steel raised beds. Even rows of five-gallon pails filled with plants count as raised beds in my estimation. Do it any way you care to, but do it if it’s right for you.

Littlefield Notes Fall 2012

Littlefield Notes: Fall 2012

by:
from issue:

Why horses? We are knee deep in threshing oats and rye when I find after lunch that the tractor won’t start. Press the ignition switch — nothing; not even a click. I cancel the day’s threshing and drive thirty miles to the tractor store and pick up a genuine-after-market IH part. Come home, put in the new ignition switch and still nothing. When we need the horses they start right up, without complaint — every time.

LittleField Notes Prodigal Sun & Food Ethics

LittleField Notes: Prodigal Sun & Food Ethics

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To my great delight a sizable portion of the general eating public has over the past few years decided to begin to care a great deal about where their food comes from. This is good for small farmers. It bodes well for the future of the planet and leaves me hopeful. People seem to be taking Wendell Berry’s words to heart that “eating is an agricultural act;” that with every forkful we are participating in the act of farming.

Portrait of a Garden

Portrait of a Garden

As the seasons slip by at a centuries-old Dutch estate, an 85-year-old pruning master and the owner work on cultivating crops in the kitchen garden. To do this successfully requires a degree of obsessiveness, the old man explains in this calm, observational documentary. The pruning master still works every day. It would be easier if he were only 60 and young.

An Introduction To Farm Woodlands

The farm woodland is that portion of the farm which either never was cleared for tillage or pasture, or was later given back to woods growth. Thus it occupies land that never was considered suitable, or later proved unsuitable, for farm enterprises.

Swallow

Rotation As A Means Of Blight Control

Every farmer knows that when a crop is grown on the same field year after year, it becomes inferior in quality and the yield steadily diminishes.

LittleField Notes Farm Log

LittleField Notes: Farm Log

by:
from issue:

My starting every column with a discussion of the weather set me to thinking about that old clichéd idea of talking about the weather; how it is all old men talk about downtown at the local coffee shop; how they sit for hours telling endless lies about how the snow was deeper, the nights colder and the hills steeper when they were young. However, clichés have basis in truth, and it is true that weather is a wonderful conversation opener.

Evolution of a Permanent Bed System

Evolution of a Permanent Bed System

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from issue:

After three or four years we could see that the nature of our farming practices would continue to have detrimental effects on our soils. We were looking for a new approach, a routine that would be sustainable, rather than a rescue treatment for an ongoing problem. We decided to convert our fields to permanent planting beds with grassy strips in between where all tractor, foot and irrigation pipe traffic would be concentrated.

Soil, Vegetation, and Acidity

From Dusty Shelves: Audels Gardeners and Growers Guide teaches us about soil acidity.

Week in the Life of D Acres

Week in the Life of D Acres

by:
from issue:

D Acres of New Hampshire in Dorchester, a permaculture farm, sustainability center, and non-profit educational organization, is a bit of a challenge to describe. Join us for this week-in-the-life tour, a little of everything that really did unfold in this manner. Extraordinary, perhaps, only in that these few November days were entirely ordinary.

Cultivating Questions Going Single

Cultivating Questions: Going Single

Going single did not occur to us until we began receiving questions from prospective teamsters who felt it would be more manageable and economical to get started with a single horse than a team. After 29 years of market gardening with two or more horses, our impetus to try out one-horse farming was not a question of management or economy, but due to the radically diverging horse temperaments on our farm.

Cultivating Questions Winterkilled Cover Crops for a Mild Climate Part 2

Cultivating Questions: Winterkilled Cover Crops For A Mild Climate Part 2

Finding just the right cover crop-tillage combination for crops planted the last half of June has always been a real challenge in our location. While surface-tilling mature rye and vetch in May works well for fall crops established in July and August, this cover crop-tillage combo does not allow enough time for decomposition and moisture accumulation for end-of-June plantings.

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