Tag Archives: Prey animal psychology

Take the Feed Yard Foodie Cattle Handling Challenge!

We look just as young today as we did 16 years ago when this picture was taken!

I come from a long line of teachers.  My beloved Grannie taught 4th grade for 40+ years, and my amazing mom is still stimulating and educating young high school minds on the art of literary critique and essay writing.  As she so eloquently states, “my students keep me young!”. I believe that interactive learning is important, so I am inviting all of you to Take the Feed Yard Foodie Cattle Handling Challenge!

My favorite 12 year old remarked last night that I had been doing too much pontificating lately..

I always try to follow her advice so, to mix things up a bit, I would like to do an interactive series looking at cattle handling.  Now, as you read this, you should not get that same “sinking sensation” in your stomach that you used to get when you forgot that there was going to be a quiz and showed up to science class completely unprepared…I will not be grading your efforts, and I promise that participating will be FUN!  However, the amount of FUN that we have will be contingent on your enthusiasm and willingness to participate (please don’t let me down here, this will only work if you all watch the video and answer the questions!).  I laughed to my husband last night that I could offer signed copies of the American Cattlemen magazine as Cover Girl to the folks that participate, but he looked at me like I was crazy so I scrapped that idea…

Participating is easy: Step 1: watch this video of the beginning of an exercising session with a group of cattle (it is about 4 minutes long). Step 2:  answer the questions listed below about the video.

Questions:

1. True or False: At the very beginning of the video, as I walk down the outside edge of the pen to the gate, I swing my outside arm back and forth to both get the cattle’s attention and move them away from the gate.

2. True or False: The cattle remember where the gate is located and are interested in exiting the pen.

3. The animal that challenges me right after I enter the pen, is what color? A. Black, B. Black and White, or C. Mousey Brown.

4. True or False: You can tell that the animal is challenging me because it knocks me over on my behind…

5. My walking pattern while working with the cattle is comprised of A. Circling or curved movements or B.  Straight lines and angles?

6. True or False: These cattle are very lazy and have no energy as they exit the pen in the middle of the video.

7. How do I respond when the cattle begin to walk past me and exit the pen?

8.  True or False: I walk directly down the alleyway behind the cattle without ever changing my angle to them after they leave the home pen.

Extra Credit:  Name three ways that these cattle are either similar or different than the cattle in the last cattle handling video that I put up a few weeks ago.  Here is the link to the last video if you missed it:

You can leave your answers either in the comment section of this post or send them to me privately via the Ask Me section of the blog.  Next Tuesday’s post will talk about both the video and the answers…Have FUN!

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Filed under Cattle Handling Videos starring Feed Yard Foodie!, General

Focus…Feel…Communication

Coach Andersen (to the left of me), me, and Coach Kirk Peppas at the Junior National Championships my senior year in high school. I placed 4th and 6th in the backstroke events.

I was first introduced to the concept of “focus” by my USA Swimming coach when I was in 8th grade.  Coach Andersen believed in holistic fitness for his athletes, and was determined to teach us all mental toughness and focus in addition to making our bodies strong.  Coach was my earliest mentor, and had a tremendous lasting influence on the person that I have become.  He made me tough, gave me a tremendous work ethic, and challenged me to always strive for greatness.

That being said, my teammates and I thought that he had lost his mind when he had us all lie down on the floor to practice relaxation and focus techniques….Amidst a room of quiet snickers, I found a tremendous life skill.

I called on this life skill ten years later as I began to study cattle and horses and learned to interact with them.

Focus means attention to detail: receiving feedback from my animals and responding accordingly...

I remember vividly the first time that I shipped cattle to harvest.

The feeling that I have today when I ship cattle to harvest is much different…

Moving amidst a large number of animals that are 13X bigger than you are can be intimidating.  That first day, I was shaking with fright as Archie and I counted off cattle to be moved up to the waiting semi-trucks.  In spite of my fear, (thanks to Coach Andersen) I was able regain my focus and concentrate on the task at hand.  I lacked confidence that first day, but I realized that it was imperative that I stay in control.

So what exactly is focus?

Webster defines focus as a point of concentration.  When you are handling prey animals, this focus has an added element that Natural Horseman Bill Dorrance describes as “feel”.  In this instance, the concentration requires a detailed element of perception necessary to enable an effective two way communication system.  When you are handling animals that weigh 1350#, there is little room for error.  Effective communication is the difference between skillful cattle handling and safety, and chaotic and dangerous mayhem.

A group of 16 animals going up the alleyway to load on the semi-truck to be shipped to harvest...My cowboy and I are the "shipping crew".

When I first began at the feed yard, shipping cattle required four crew members and a lot of tension and pressure.  Today, my cowboy and I sort and ship cattle by ourselves and there is an element of effective communication that reduces the tension and makes it a more organized effort.

The difference?

A focus on feel, training and prey animal psychology that begins when cattle are received at the feed yard and continues throughout the feeding period.  When I acclimate cattle into the feed yard, I teach them to walk calmly past the handler and sort easily.  I also consistently rely on the “Ask, Tell, Promise” communication system that I described in an earlier post as I train my animals.  This not only allows them to feel more comfortable in their surroundings, but it also makes “shipment day” much easier.

Does “shipment day” always go as smoothly as I want it to?  No.  Animals (cattle) are unpredictable, and no two days are the same.  When we handle and ship cattle, we focus on Dr. Dee Griffin’s 4 S’s of Safety:

Safety of the animal handler

Safety of the animal

Safety of the food supply

Safety of everyone that comes in contact with the animal

In the fifteen years that I have been learning how cattle think and act, I have discovered that the single most important skill to have is perception of the surrounding environment and focus on the animal and the task at hand.  Communication is a two way street—even with an animal.  If you are not focused, then you will miss half the conversation.  If the conversation is with a 1350# animal, then missing half of the conversation may mean the difference between effectively loading the animal and literally being trampled to death.

Calf #718 and his herd mates are strong and powerful animals...

Calf #718 weighed 1394# when I loaded him on the truck and shipped him to harvest.  My measly 105# of body weight looks pretty scrawny next to a powerful animal of that size.  I must rely on my focus, feel, and communication to safely and effectively load him (and his herd mates) on the semi-truck destined for harvest…

A cattle semi-truck waiting to receive cattle to transport them to harvest...

That takes me back to the early days when Coach Andersen taught me that brawn was victorious only when it was combined with brains!

Feed Yard Foodie as a Senior in high school...Brains and Brawn were a great combination back then too!

 

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Filed under Animal Welfare, Beef Life Cycle--Calf #718, General, Natural Horsemanship