The other week I attended Cattlemen’s College, a one day seminar on related topics to the cattle business, with my business partner and friend Rusty along with our wives. It started off with a live demonstration showing “low stress handling” techniques for working with cattle in the pens or out in the pasture. Much of it was developed based upon a well known woman who is autistic who because of her sensitivity realized that animals would respond to gentle handling vs the customary cattle prods and shock sticks currently used.
The session was run by Curt Pate, a cowboy who uses the techniques based out of Nebraska (?) and Ron Gill, a Phd with the University of Texas in College Station. We were at the Cain Cattle Company up in Pickens. Curt was provided a horse to work with that he may have ridden the day before the seminar and was working with 6 to 8 head of cattle that were not aware of the techniques to be used on them. After working with them on horseback, he got off the horse and used the same techniques on foot. He said that it took him quite a while to learn as a young cowboy it is not always a good idea to use a horse or an ATV in enclosed areas and to get out of the saddle and put his boots in the dirt to work with the cattle. Chuckles and nods of agreement were heard and seen in the cattlemen observing the demonstration.
The main point was to be aware of the animals “fight or flight” instincts and using body language and strategies to guide the cattle forward, to stay where they were or to ‘retreat’ to where you want them to go. He said to think about how border collies make herd animals do what they want by observing and making feints in one direction or another when behind the animals. Or, when on the side of the animal, to know when to move towards the head or the tail of the animal to get the required action by the animal. There is naturally more to it than I can go into in a short space but hopefully you get the picture.
What is good is that Rusty believes in gently handling techniques overall and I could actually try to work on trying them out with our cattle. I am sure it won’t go all that smoothly, but it should be fun trying it out.
The rest of the day was ‘classroom’ presentations that were all very informative and interesting. The program will