Slow is Fast When Handling Cattle

May 2014:  Slow is Fast When Moving Cattle–this report from Texas A&M experts outlines the need for smart techniques when dealing with cattle. A few key points:

Cattle on the Lam (related blog)

I always figured pigs are smart. Those beady eyes and that “what, me worry?” look made me think they were up to something.  But cows? Cud-chewing and a lot of standing around near the water tank. So when I saw a short video about Daisy the bovine genius, it took me back to the times I had to round up cattle that had been clever enough to get loose.

Daisy can unlock gates with her tongue.
During my teenage summers on the farm, I would occasionally grab a sleeping bag and spend the night in the yard.  I’d drift off to the sound of waves as the night breeze flowed across cornfields and broke gently against the boughs of the nearby cottonwood tree. 
Late one night, I woke knowing something had invaded my space.  Fifteen or twenty cows moved through the lawn, their zombie eyes gleaming, their steady plodding a sign that they were on a mission.  When cattle escape, they generally are after food, and in this case, they were headed toward the open fields. I can’t remember the scene that followed, but I imagine I woke the rest of the family, we shut a few gates, opened others, and stepped around cow pies as we herded them back in the light of daybreak.
During the ensuing forty years, it seems that cattle have made some type of escape on the farm at least once a year, and I happened to be there for the latest. Last week, I visited the farm to see my folks and harvest sweet corn, but as I walked out the front door, six escapee steers were scrummed up in the lane.  At my urging, five turned around, but there is always a rebel, and he and I played stare down for a spell.  Dad opened a nearby gate, and with a bit of luck, we persuaded the renegade steer to gallop back in. By this time, the others were in an adjacent pasture, a thistle lined paddock with a basically useless fence.  Mom was the smart one of the bunch; she called neighbors, and with their help, we corralled all but one that leaped the fence and bolted through the soybean field. Cousin Tim, the cow hand among us, was philosophical about it: “That steer will be back this evening.” He was right.
Tim has had plenty of experience with cows on the lam. During one large bovine jailbreak last spring, he had help from a neighbor with a pickup, several relatives on foot, and two Amish ranchers on horseback. Watching Tim help us this week reminded me that cattle are best persuaded not bullied. They will more likely end up back in the pen if the methods include slow movements, smart tactics, and firm but measured persuasion. Maybe it’s the Temple Grandin approach.  
When I drove off, the cattle were standing around the water tank, chewing their cuds. But I’m not fooled. I know there’s a Houdini in the bunch hatching another plot.  (Dan Gogerty, CAST Communications Editor)

Note:  A recent clinic focused on Stress-free Cattle Handling looked at topics such as moving herds with control, putting cattle through gates, loading cattle onto a truck, pasture loading without facilities, and working with dogs and horses.

Note:  For a humorous take on herding animals, check out this classic ad from a few years ago: Herding Cats

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