Good Animal Handlers Have the Right Attitude

The originator of low-stress livestock handling (LSLH), Bud Williams, stressed the importance of five requisite elements or foundational layers of LSLH (see Figure below). In the last article we considered the first layer, mindset. In this article we will look at attitude, which Bud considered “more important than skill level.” “Pre-Bud” I never thought about it—nor did anyone else I worked with—but just as with mindset, attitude is vitally important but generally undervalued and under-appreciated. Bud insisted that “low-stress livestock handling is more than just a technique of working livestock; it’s an attitude about working livestock.” So, what does Bud mean by “attitude”? There are five essential attributes: Positive In order to do low-stress livestock handling, we first need a positive attitude; that is, we need to believe that it works and that we can do it. If we have a negative attitude and believe that it won’t work or we can’t do it, then, alas, that’s what will happen; it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. According to Bud, “Your attitude will create more problems than anything else, but if you have a good attitude you can solve almost any problem.” Determination [caption id="attach

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5 thoughts on “Good Animal Handlers Have the Right Attitude

  1. I grew up on a feed lot and married a hog farmer. We have raised pigs inside for nearly 20/years. We’ve got a little experience in moving and handling livestock (some not so cooperative at times). At 5’5″ 130# I’m not fighting with a 300# pig. I can however change his mind and reroute him to the truck. We also have 200 head of momma cows under roof. We’ve used the knowledge gained in animal handling and management (disease control, environment management, etc) into our cow operation and will agree that animal handling is very much mindset and attitude. Many of our cows originated from the pastures of SD and were a bit skidish upon arrival. Most calm down and don’t mind you r even in the pens. Even with babies on their sides they are pretty calm and will let u check their baby over without taking anyone. The ones that don’t calm down are rehomed as it tends to be contagious!

  2. If you have help that likes drama and yelling at animals unnecessarily fences get broken. Having that same help fix the fence they caused animals to break gets them thinking about better low stress handling the next time.

    My grandmother at 89 was still quietly moving sheep into the shearing pen. 2 or 3 at a time they look for an exit in a small pen. More than that they put heads down in a corner and are hard to move.

  3. I have heard it said of horses and I have experienced it with cattle/goats/pigs “if they knew it, they’d do it”. If they aren’t “doing it” you aren’t explaining it. If you approach the situation with the knowledge that the HUMAN is responsible for presenting the REQUEST in an understandable way, success is almost guaranteed. If you are not successful, start over. Break the request down into smaller requests. Which leads us to the question, do you know what you want the animal to do? If you can’t explain it, why do you think you will be able to get the animal to comply.

  4. Excellent article on an often overlooked aspect of low-stress livestock handling.

    I have to admit that I did not fully understand what Bud meant by attitude and belief when I first took attended his school years ago, and even after attending a school taught by Steve Cote. It’s not that I didn’t get at all, or was wrong, but as Bud might say, “I didn’t get it quite right.”

    That’s ok, because you won’t get it exactly right all the time. The most important thing is to understand that you have to observe how what you are doing is affecting your stock, and then adjust if they are not responding appropriately. Keep observing and adjusting until they respond appropriately. All along, though you have to have the confidence, and patience to trust that you will figure this out. Based on my experience, if you are not enjoying this process, though, you are just creating stress for your livestock. Learn to enjoy learning, and that means learning to enjoy doing, even when you are making mistakes. If you can learn to enjoy the somewhat painful process of learning, it goes so much better for you and your livestock, and probably your spouse and coworkers, as well.

    A growth mindset is critical component of stockmanship. Stockmanship is a lifelong approach to continual learning to improve our livestock handling skills.

  5. Totally agree. We had a very inadequate corral by most standards but our livestock were so tame that we could get calves and momma cows separated and into trailers or turned out without some of the craziness that I’ve seen. A little bit of feed as a bribe goes a long way and tempers lost are long remembered.

    I also need to point out that large animals can still hurt us even accidentally. We had a bull that we put small children on to sit and ride along take the front fender off of our pickup after deer hunting one day. Was fine again after washing the vehicle though.

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