Now that I’ve taken you through the 5 P’s of Cattle Handling, I want to present some basic handling tips that can make your life easier during cattle working events.
You can do a lot of cattle handling if you follow simple principles:
- Understand the animal
- Have decent facilities
- Use appropriate tools
Understand the Animal
Cattle are biological creatures, and we can’t forget that when we gather them for a working event. Therefore, I spent a good amount of time in the 5 P’s post diving into how cattle react to humans. Understanding this relationship, you can become a better cattle handler.
I always tell my people: slow is smooth, smooth is fast. This saying originates with Navy Seals. To learn something, they learned it slowly. Once they perfected it, they were smooth. Once you can perform something smoothly, it’s actually faster than if you jump right in and try to rush.
Cattle react to smooth techniques significantly better than they will react to quick movements. Your day will go faster if you learn to handle your cattle smoothly. The first few times that occurs – take it slowly!
Plan for the extra time – it will save you hours in the end.
Cattle want to go back where they came from. When planning cattle working events, think about this behavior and how that instinct can help you. If you ever have a corner to turn or gate to walk into, try to make it where the cattle are turning around to go back where they came from.
Invest in Decent Facilities
Safe working facilities are paramount. Everyone needs to make it home safely. So make sure all of your gates and latches are in working order. You won’t have a good working event if you don’t have safe facilities.
There are a lot of designs for facilities that make sense in different situations. I prefer a working system that allows cattle to be worked without humans having to be in the crowding pen. I like this setup because it allows generations of people to help work cattle and people with varying skill levels.
However, whether your crowding pen is a tub or a box, or a hybrid, you can not use this space as a place to store cattle. The minute cattle gather in this space is the same minute you have lost them – they’re confused about what you’re asking them to do.
If you follow one primary tenant, most facilities will flow nicely. This is the number one mistake I see when people are handling cattle. I’m letting you in on a really big secret, so prepare yourself…
The magic number is the number of cattle that will fit in the raceway from your crowding pen to the chute. This number obviously changes depending on the type and size of cattle you are working.
If you follow this tenant, you’ll enjoy handling cattle in a multitude of facilities.
Use Appropriate Tools
Persuaders often make cattle handling a little easier. The purpose of a persuader is to extend your reach so that you may enter the animal’s flight zone without physically having to move your body. My favorite cattle persuaders are old golf club handles with a trash bag or pom-pom attached to the end. I hold them down low and shake slowly. This is all I need to work cattle.
Some people prefer rattle paddles. I do not oppose them. However, if your paddle no longer has rattles in it, someone has used this paddle to hit equipment or facilities, and that is inappropriate use. Rattle paddles should function similarly to a pom stick – hold them down low and shake slowly.
Cattle handing basics make working cattle an easier process for the handlers and for the cattle. Implementing these strategies and incorporating The 5 Ps of Cattle Handling are simple ways you can make a big difference in your working events.
MEET DR. TERA BARNHARDT
Dr. Tera Barnhardt is a consulting veterinarian with a master’s in Science (from Kansas State University – GO CATS!) specializing in animal welfare and research for feedyards, dairies, and cow-calf operations.
A busy mother of three and small business owner, Dr. B. is passionate about educating others in the beef and livestock industry about animal health and taking an active role in her community.