Well, it is a good thing that I became a feed yard manager instead of a teacher! Although it appears that some of you watched the video, only four of you took the interactive challenge. Many thanks to Robert, Carol, Sherry and Bill for taking the challenge!
Last weekend, I was bemoaning to my husband the fact that my cattle handling videos do not seem to interest very many people—to this comment he replied, “Well, you need to tape the videos in your swimming suit instead of your coveralls.” While that is an interesting thought, I believe that my years of living in a bathing suit have passed me by. Handling cattle in a bathing suit would also go against my feed yard safety policy which requires long pants and boots.
Even though the interaction part of Thursday’s post did not garner great participation, good cattle handling is such an important part of the care that I offer to my animals that I would like to take a few minutes to comment on the video…
The cattle in the video came from AL Ranch. Those of you that remember my long series of posts tracing Calf #718 last summer will remember Al and Sallie Atkins (if you missed the series of posts you can find them under the Calf #718 topic archive on the home page). The cattle featured in the video traveled from AL Ranch to my feed yard a couple of weeks ago. I had my husband film the beginning of the 3rd day of acclimation for the cattle.
On the 1st day of acclimation, this group of cattle were very sensitive, and I was able to send them to the back corner of the pen before even opening the gate. They had calmed down significantly by the 3rd session, and so it required a little more energy and pressure on my part to move them away from the gate. I walked down the bunk line swinging my outside arm with energy in order to get their attention and get them to move away from the gate.
Question #1 was True!
While I want to teach my cattle where the gate is so that they exit the pen easily, I do not want to train them to simply run out of the gate every time that it opens. This is why I asked the cattle to move away from the gate and toward the corner of the pen before I asked them to leave the pen.
Question #2 was True!
If I had not placed some pressure on the cattle when I entered the pen, then they would have immediately left the pen—they both remembered where the gate was and were interested in leaving! By the last day of acclimation, the cattle’s interest has changed and they would rather stay in the pen and just wait for breakfast. At that point, I know that the animals have attributed comfort to the home pen and I have been successful in acclimating them.
Question #3 was C. Mousey Brown!
Shortly after I entered the pen there was one animal in particular that wanted to go directly out of the gate. I had to remind the animal a couple of times to move with the group instead of going off on her own to exit the gate. It is very important for me (as a lone handler) to encourage my animals to move as a group. If they do not all go together, the flow of the cattle is disrupted and it makes my job as handler very challenging.
Question # 4 was False!
While the video may have been more entertaining if I had been knocked down on my behind by this animal, that is not what occurred. You could see, however, that I had to move fairly quickly one time to make sure that I redirected the animal toward the herd.
Question #5 was B. Straight Lines and Angles!
If you watch my movements carefully, you will see that I walk in straight lines and move in angles toward the cattle to create alternating pressure that moves the cattle in the direction that I want them to go.
Question #6 was False!
These cattle (once I let them go toward the gate where they wanted to go) have a lot of energy and move very quickly. They have quite a bit of impulsion. If you remember back to the last cattle video that I put up, one interesting contrast between the two sets of cattle was their level of impulsion or energy. While the first pen moved more slowly, this pen of cattle from AL Ranch moved with a higher level of energy.
Question #7: I calmly walked away from the cattle and then applied alternate pressure as needed to manage the flow of movement. This allowed them to leave the pen with confidence. With a group of animals that have this much energy and desire to go somewhere, once you get good movement it is important to back off and remove the pressure so the cattle stay in a learning frame of mind. It would be easy to overstimulate cattle of this nature.
My goal is learning and communication which results in organized movement. While the pressure is what moves the animals, it is the release that allows them to learn. The amount of pressure that is appropriate to use when handling cattle will change with each group of animals depending on their genetic nature and their prior cattle handling experiences. It also changes during the acclimation period as the cattle begin to learn and become more comfortable with the handler.
Question #8 was False!
I move in a zig-zag pattern behind the cattle as they trail down the alleyway. This is an alternate pressure movement (pressure and release) that encourages the animals to continue moving in a straight line. Cattle are unable to see the area directly behind them, so as I move in a zig-zag pattern they can see me out of the corner of each eye which allows for consistent communication.
My husband and children remind me frequently that I tend to be a bit long winded when I get on the subject of cattle handling. It is a subject that I love. I hope that my passion is contagious—otherwise you probably quit reading about 500 words ago!