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Three Principles of Stockmanship Put 6 Kids to Sleep

By   /  November 30, 2015  /  2 Comments

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For some people, bedtime is a painless and peaceful transition from waking to sleep; some ablutions, maybe a book to read, lights out.

My kids at bedtime.

My kids at bedtime.

Bedtime with kids can go peacefully, but it often includes some conversation and even the occasional negotiation, especially as parents tire, and kids seem to have the energy of a thousand pink bunnies coursing through their veins. But thanks to what I learned recently about stockmanship, bedtime may go a little more smoothly in the future.

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Utah to visit farmers with some stockmanship experts: Whit Hibbard, Dawn Hnatow, and Jim Lewis. Whit presented principles of low stress livestock handling (LSLH), and I dutifully wrote them down.

  1. Keep animals in a normal frame of mind.
  2. Animals should not be forced to do anything that they don’t want to do or are not ready to do.
  3. Set up every situation so that our idea becomes the animals’ idea.

The Friday I got home was hockey night for Mr. On Pasture, and bedtime was going to be a solo affair. I was pooped, and our three kids were hoping to be joined by three kids from next door. Six energetic kids and one tired adult. The odds were intriguing. Eleven years of parenting don’t fail me now, but extreme exhaustion usually leads to short tempers.

Screenshot 2015-11-27 15.59.30

This may not be based on actual research, but I think this chart will look plausible to other parents.


Whit’s LSLH principles were at the front of my brain, and I figured now was a chance to try them out. I would maintain a low stress environment, and would avoid resorting to “GET INTO BED, NOW!”

Beds and cozy nests were set up and described to the crew so they could understand what bedtime would look like (Principle 1). I explained my exhaustion, and asked for their help. Would they be willing to make bedtime work? (Principle 2) Sure. A sleepover for six was their idea (Principle 3).

All hands were on deck. Pajamas went on, teeth were brushed. Everyone got into bed in record time.  Quiet whispers in two rooms between six wonderful kids.

Lights out. Pancakes at 7:30.

Pancake recipe
2 cups white flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
8 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
5 Tbsp sugar
4 eggs
4 1/2 cups milk
2 sticks of butter, melted
Mix, pour onto hot griddle, and enjoy! Save left overs for toasting for breakfasts through the week.

P.S. They just told me they didn’t go to sleep immediately. But I did! And they all stayed in bed. And if you think this is a great idea, just wait until you try it on your livestock! Whit will be sharing more with us in upcoming issues.

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  • Published: 6 years ago on November 30, 2015
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  • Last Modified: November 29, 2015 @ 10:33 am
  • Filed Under: The Scoop

About the author

Author and editor emeritus

Rachel's interest in sustainable agriculture and grazing has deep roots in the soil. She's been following that passion around the world, working on an ancient Nabatean farm in the Negev, and with farmers in West Africa's Niger. After returning to the US, Rachel received her M.S. and Ph.D. in agronomy and soil science from the University of Maryland. For her doctoral research, Rachel spent 3 years working with Maryland dairy farmers using management intensive grazing. She then began her work with grass farmers, a source of joy and a journey of discovery.


  1. Alan Kraus says:

    Sounds like a great idea, but I wonder if the cows will eat the pancakes!

  2. jack Teller says:

    I loved the story of getting the young ones to bed with the principles of gently handling livestock.

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