We started out the first two weeks of 2017 with two articles that we think are especially important. They are a continuation of Whit Hibbard’s myth-busting series about cattle handling systems. Last week he shared his findings that it’s a myth that shadows, chains, trash and other distractions necessarily prevent animals from moving through handling chutes. This week he busts the myth that expensive facilities work better than simple ones. He compares Temple Grandin’s tubs and curved chutes with Bud Williams’ “Budbox” and the Budbox comes out on top. Not only is it much cheaper, but as the videos at the end of the article show, a novice handler given a little instruction can easily move cattle through a Budbox, while two experienced handlers, Curt Pate and Temple Grandin, have to push and shove (with a horse) and poke the cattle with a flagged stick to get them to move into a tub.
Saying that someone may be wrong, especially when that someone is as popular as Temple Grandin, can be unpopular. And it’s not an easy thing to do given Dr. Grandin’s accomplishments which include inspiring families living with autism and almost single-handedly raising public awareness of animal welfare and humane slaughter. So we’d have to have a pretty good reason to say, “Hey, wait! Our tests reveal that some of the things she says aren’t correct.”
It turns out that you are that reason.
When we signed up to do On Pasture, one of our founding principles was that we would provide you with unbiased information that would help your enterprise be as sustainable and profitable as possible. And that’s what Whit Hibbard’s articles do in this case.
What Dr. Hibbard is demonstrating is that you can save a lot of money by making a small investment in that gray matter between your ears. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on a fancy cattle handling system; you just need to learn how to move animals. Even Temple Grandin, in response to Whit Hibbard’s and Lynn Locatelli’s in-depth analysis of her handling facilities, said, “the design of a facility becomes less and less important after a rancher or stocker operator has spent time with his/her cattle practicing low-stress methods.” The issue here is that with tub systems, as Bud Williams noted, we’ve taken something that we do poorly (stockmanship) and designed a system to perpetuate it because it is meant to take the human out of the equation as much as possible.
Of course, you may have questions about Whit’s findings, and you may want to explore more or share your experiences. That’s great and we advocate for an ongoing, constructive conversation on this topic. In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about low-stress livestock handling, here’s a link to the original series analyzing Grandin’s work, and here’s a link to Whit’s ‘how-to’ articles in On Pasture.