Low-stress cattle handling is not low-pressure cattle handling

“Just getting them to move and do what you want them to do, that’s stockmanship. But when I take stockmanship to the next level and use that to actually manage the psychology and well-being of an animal, that’s low-stress handling.”

A Handbook for Ranch ManagersBut you have to watch who is in the pen with you.

A couple of years back I was working (pushing livestock) for a ranch rodeo. I need to move a pen of very large black heifers. So, I went into the pen with them, eased around the edge to work them off of a far corner and out the gate. I had ’em going good.

Planned Grazing: A Study Guide and Reference ManualThen, all of a sudden, one of those whooper-holler types busted into the pen and charged at them head long. They all turned 180 degrees and ran right over the top of my young Christian ass.

Then the little twerp didn’t have the gumption to say he was sorry or that he had screwed up. As the Oakie would say, “Ya kain’t get no good hep nowdays.”

by Burt Rutherford via Beef Magazine

Don’t confuse the concept of low stress with low pressure.

Environmental & Natural Resource Economics: The Austrian View“We spend a lot of time with cattle in a feedyard. But we don’t necessarily spend the right time with the right cattle.” That’s how Ron Gill, program leader for the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, started out a cattle handling training session for feedyard cowboys recently. Gill’s training session on low-stress cattle handling was part of a Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) certification training for feedyard cowboys sponsored by the Texas Cattle Feeders Association.

Combat Shooter's HandbookIn Gill’s opinion, backed by experience when he owned a preconditioning feedyard, is that incoming cattle need the most attention. That’s why he advocates an acclimation process for newly-arrived cattle.

The Betrayed: On Warriors, Cowboys and Other MisfitsHaving an established acclimation process, where incoming cattle are worked every day for the first few days after arrival, pays off in several ways, Gill says. “To me, it’s one of the most beneficial things we can do form a quality assurance standpoint.”

Reconnaissance Marine MCI 03.32f: Marine Corps InstituteGill learned the benefits of an acclimation procedure firsthand when he ran a preconditioning yard. He says his death loss and morbidity was unacceptable. “So we started to see if we could do something on the cattle handling side to make those cattle better.”

The Essence of Liberty: Volume I: Liberty and History: The Rise and Fall of the Noble Experiment with Constitutionally Limited Government (Liberty and ... Limited Government) (Volume 1)  The Essence of Liberty: Volume II: The Economics of Liberty (Volume 2) The Essence of Liberty: Volume III: A Universal Philosophy of Political Economy (Liberty: A Universal Political Ethic) (Volume 3) And it worked—death loss and morbidity both dropped significantly and average daily gain improved 0.25 pound a day. “To me, that’s worth a little effort, when we look at those kind of differences.”

The acclimation process doesn’t have to be long, he says. “We’re looking for 15 to 30 minutes a day, getting to where I can do what I want with the cattle, move them around and get them quieted and settled down.”

That’s where low-stress cattle handling comes in. “Just getting them to move and do what you want them to do, that’s stockmanship. But when I take stockmanship to the next level and use that to actually manage the psychology and well-being of an animal, that’s low-stress handling.”

However, he stresses that low-stress cattle handling is not low-pressure cattle handling. “Use the right pressure at the right time and make sure they have a place to go.”

While learning “the right pressure at the right time” takes time and experience, start by using the point of balance and flight zone. Demonstrating the concepts on a group of newly-arrived feeder cattle that clearly had more experience with coyotes and rattlesnakes than they did with humans, Gill showed the cowboys how to use the point of balance and flight zones to get the first few cattle in the bunch to move from one side of the pen to the other, working the cattle from the front and side rather than from behind.

“Working cattle from behind is not what they want us to do,” he says. That’s because, if you’re behind the cattle trying to drive them by waving your arms and shouting, those will turn round to see what the fuss is all about. “I want to work from the front, draw the cattle to me and let them take themselves out of the pen.”

In addition to settling cattle down and allowing them to build trust in their handlers, Gill says the acclimation process has other benefits. “If I can do this when they first come in, I can look for sickness, lameness, anything that maybe ailing these cattle. If they’ll start relaxing, I can start picking up sickness as they come by.”

The key to an effective acclimation process is taking the time to work the cattle consistently so they build trust, relax in their new surroundings and go on feed quickly. Not only does it pay off throughout the time they’re in the feedyard, but when they ship as fed cattle. “I don’t want to do this they day they ship,” Gill says. “I want them all to work smooth and easy. The only way I can do that is to train them early.”


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A Handbook for Ranch ManagersA Handbook for Ranch Managers.  In keeping with the “holistic” idea that the land, the livestock, the people and the money should be viewed as a single integrated whole: Part I deals with the management of the natural resources. Part II covers livestock production and Part III deals with the people and the money. Not only would this book make an excellent basic text for a university program in Ranch Management, no professional ranch manager’s reference bookshelf should be without it. It is a comprehensive reference manual for managing the working ranch. The information in the appendices and extensive bibliography alone is worth the price of the book.

You might be interested in this books supplement: Planned Grazing: A Study Guide and Reference Manual.

About Land & Livestock Interntional, Inc.

Land and Livestock International, Inc. is a leading agribusiness management firm providing a complete line of services to the range livestock industry. We believe that private property is the foundation of America. Private property and free markets go hand in hand—without property there is no freedom. We also believe that free markets, not government intervention, hold the key to natural resource conservation and environmental preservation. No government bureaucrat can (or will) understand and treat the land with as much respect as its owner. The bureaucrat simply does not have the same motives as does the owner of a capital interest in the property. Our specialty is the working livestock ranch simply because there are so many very good reasons for owning such a property. We provide educational, management and consulting services with a focus on ecologically and financially sustainable land management that will enhance natural processes (water and mineral cycles, energy flow and community dynamics) while enhancing profits and steadily building wealth.
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