Tag Archives: low stress cattle handling

The Draw…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Scripture for today’s Wednesday Wisdom comes from Luke 6: 19

“Everyone tried to touch him, because healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone.”


The New Testament is full of stories that demonstrate the power of Jesus’s draw. His heart, full of unconditional love, worked as a magnet toward many. Two things happened on the farm this week that caused me to further focus my thoughts on the concept of the draw.

  1. I attended an educational summit on low stress cattle handling put on by the PAC Veterinary Consultants
  2. I took a group of yearling steers from the Lazy YN Ranch to our spring grass pasture by Willow Island, NE.

As a cattle handling tool, the draw acts like a magnet — inspiring movement toward something meaningful. The draw pulls cattle in a certain direction in an orderly and calm fashion. It provides an incredibly effective tool when you need to move your animals from one place to another.

Creating the draw takes a little bit of homework because it serves as an inspiration for cooperation rather than a forceful submission. I want my animals to naturally follow my leadership because this is how we are able to create a harmonious partnership on the farm. It takes trust and understanding, as well as patience and empathy.


While it is likely a bit unorthodox, I tend to draw parallels from being a cattle caregiver into my own faith. Just as I lead my animals, God leads me. He draws me in as we travel the journey together. It is a natural draw that inspires my cooperation rather than a forceful submission. As I abide in Him, we are able to move forward together.

My “cattle trail” is not a perfectly straight line, as I falter at times, but the draw seems to always bring me back. One of the things that fascinates me the most about the New Testament stories of Jesus’s draw is his ability use goodness to draw others into faith. Luke reminds us that everyone wanted to touch Jesus because of his healing power. That healing power was not just a physical one — rather it was one that also touched the soul.

  • Have you ever come in contact with someone who radiates joy?
  • Is there someone who consistently brightens your day and inspires you to mature in your perspective?

None of us are blessed on earth with the ability to physically touch Jesus, but we can receive His love and guidance through our relationship with the Holy Spirit as well as other people that we meet along the journey.

Perhaps we can all receive healing as we share God’s love together.

There is no greater gift than love.

There is no greater draw than the joy and hope that come from living in faith.

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The Final Days of Summer…

Yesterday morning marked the official end of summer for the youth of Cozad.  Each year, the first day of school creates a natural transition from the summer to the fall.  Transitions always challenge me and this year was no exception to the rule.  I find comfort in routine (perhaps that is why I am a good cattle caregiver), and it tends to throw me off when change occurs.

My favorite blonde cowgirl shares this tendency with me, so this last week has been bittersweet for us.  Megan spent the summer working on her cattle handling skills helping me to exercise calves and also participating on the processing crew.  Last Wednesday we received a group of new cattle into the feed yard, and I gave Megan the responsibility of exercising them during the acclimation period.  While she often acts as an assistant during acclimation, these steers provided the inaugural group for her to acclimate on her own.

Trailing cattle down the alley during a dawn exercising session...

Trailing cattle down the alley during a dawn exercising session…

The previous owner did a great job teaching his calves to trust a human caregiver, so these animals provided an excellent group for Megan to guide through the process. The video below shows her moving the cattle out of the home pen at the beginning of the last acclimation/exercising session Sunday morning.

By the end of the acclimation period, the cattle have learned to attribute comfort to the home pen, and prefer to remain there rather than feeling a natural drive to go somewhere else.  Watching a group of cattle make this shift (from wanting to leave, to desiring to stay) is a fascinating process.  It takes several days (these cattle were on day 5) and requires cattle savvy to guide them to this change.  A few thoughts as you watch the video:

  1. When you have a lone handler and many animals, the first step is to herd the animals together in a group — this both makes them feel more comfortable and also makes leading them easier.
  2. The second step is to ask them to move in a designated direction through the use of alternate pressure.  They should continue moving in this direction until something stops them (like a fence or a closed gate).  An open gate allows for them to leave the pen when asked.
  3. Calm cattle under good leadership walk in straight lines with positive energy.
  4. Consistent and confident handler behavior makes learning easier for the cattle.

    Newly arrived cattle traveling back to the home pen after an exercising session...

    Newly arrived cattle traveling back to the home pen after an exercising session…

Good cattle handling instills important leadership qualities in the caregiver.  Cattle are very sensitive, yet they are willing to look for guidance and leadership when the handler can empathize and correctly gauge their “human interaction bubble”.  I believe that the most important skill to develop when working with animals is the ability to look outside of yourself, viewing the world through their perspective, while still retaining the confidence of a leader.  It has been fun for me, both as an animal welfare enthusiast and as a mom, to watch Megan develop these skills.

One last moment of rambunctious joy before loading in cars to head to the first day of school...

One last moment of rambunctious joy before loading in cars to head to the first day of school…

Yesterday, Megan traded the feed yard for 8th grade.  There, she will learn different things using different learning tools than those developed on the farm.  I do believe that her summer lessons will grant her a broader educational perspective.  I have to admit that we were both very sad to have the summer come to an end.  I will miss my cattle handling assistant and she will miss being a valued member of our feed yard crew.

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 With each summer that draws to an end, I realize how quickly my girls are growing up and find myself wanting to hit the “pause” button. 

Some days it seems that parenting is a bittersweet journey.

 

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Seeing In Pictures…

If you have read one of Dr. Temple Grandin’s books or seen her movie, you will remember hearing that cattle see in pictures. What this means is that cattle view the world as a collection of images. They are not linear thinkers – rather, they live in the visual moment. Good cattle caregivers understand what it means to see in pictures because they spend their days doing just that in order to effectively communicate with their animals.

Newly arrived cattle traveling back to the home pen after an exercising session...

Newly arrived cattle traveling back to the home pen after an exercising session…

I believe that when asking cattle to move from one place to another, the handler not only needs to see in pictures, but also to envision angles within the images. Moving cattle calmly and correctly necessitates applying appropriate pressure from the appropriate angle to instigate orderly movement. Depending on the personalities of the animals as well as their past interactions with human handlers, this angled pressure can range from incredibly soft to strong in nature. Regardless of the level of life involved in the pressure, it is the release of that pressure when the animal or group of animals responds correctly that creates a healthy animal/handler learning moment.

There are two kinds of bovine movement: a frantic flight/fight response that is fueled by fear, and a deliberate thinking response that comes from an effective interaction. The goal is to accomplish the latter, and it always makes me smile when I am savvy enough to enable a calf to think. At that moment, harmony exists as the right thing becomes the easy thing.

While this short video is several years old, in it my favorite blonde cowgirl does a nice job of showing appropriate and angled pressure as she asks a group of yearling cattle to exit the home pen. In order to effectively communicate with this group of animals, Megan has to see the pen through the same lens as the cattle and then interact with them in a meaningful way. One of Megan’s greatest strengths as a cattle handler is her ability to see in pictures and accurately read and respond to cattle behavior. This sense allows her to respond with the appropriate level of urgency to each interaction.

In some ways, I think that it is easier for a child to develop this sense. Their unbiased perspective and simplistic view of the world enables them to more easily shift from “human thinking” to “bovine thinking”. Once a young person develops the attentive focus needed to interact, her/his brain is unencumbered and more open to a natural interaction.

It's always a good thing when the cattle handler wears a smile!

It’s always a good thing when the cattle handler wears a smile!

I am not a natural visual thinker and my linear tendencies sometimes challenge my cattle handling skills; but I recognize the importance of thinking like a bovine. Over the years, I have consciously re-programed my brain to view cattle and their surroundings in pictures. Moving cattle out of the home pen and down the alley becomes a series of images and angles that flash through my mind amidst the rapid fire pictures of cattle expression and behavior that combines to determine my actions as the handler. It takes a clear mind and a keen focus, but provides an incredibly interesting journey…

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My favorite farmer read this post on Sunday afternoon and informed me that it was “marked by nerdiness” — I hope that someone other than Megan finds it interesting 🙂

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Filed under Animal Welfare, General

Continuous Improvement…

I met Dr. Tom Noffsinger more than a decade ago.  A veterinarian in Southwestern, Nebraska, Dr. Tom teaches the concept of low stress cattle handling and holistic bovine care.  He is a master at understanding the bovine mind, and is truly a devoted advocate for our animals.

Tom Noffsinger

Dr. Tom Noffsinger…

I love to watch Dr. Tom engage and handle cattle.  His gift of patience and dedication to caring mentors me as I travel my own personal journey of continuously improving cattle care.  I laugh to my girls that “when I grow up, I want to be like Dr. Tom”, and it is a lifelong goal of mine to be as savvy a cattle caregiver as he is.

I am very excited to report that Dr Tom has teamed up with a Brazilian veterinarian (Dr. Paulo Loureiro) to star in a variety of cattle handling videos that are available online for the public to view.

On this Thoughtful Thursday, I encourage each of you to visit the website and spend some time watching and learning from Dr. Tom.  Whether you are a cattle farmer or simply an interested animal lover, these videos show a fascinating side to creating high quality animal care in a feed yard setting.

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Why continuous improvement? Because it matters to him…

 Many thanks to Dr. Tom and Dr. Paulo for bringing good cattle care and handling to the spotlight; as well as to Merck Animal Health for funding the effort. 

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Filed under Animal Welfare, General, Thoughtful Thursday