This is Part 2 of a series by Whit Hibbard that we published in 2017. Part 1 busted the myth that distractions cause animals to balk in handling systems. In this article he address which handling systems work best.
When asked about the differences between tubs and BudBoxes, Temple Grandin claims that BudBoxes are skill dependent, whereas the tubs are not. In other words, she believes that it takes less stockmanship skill to operate a tub than a BudBox. The implication is that tubs are preferable to BudBoxes because they are easier to operate. Therefore, stockmen should buy tub systems if they do not have, or aren’t willing to develop, the skills necessary to operate a BudBox.
Here is a tub system designed by Temple Grandin with a round “tub” and solid sides:
Here is a BudBox as designed by Bud Williams:
My extensive experience with tubs and BudBoxes—and the experience of dozens of stockmen who have similarly worked both systems—strongly indicate that the reverse is true. Due to faulty premises and problematic design features upon which tubs are based, most do not work well. Consequently, it takes a high stockmanship skill level to get cattle to flow through them willingly. In the absence of that skill set handlers usually end up using the crowd gate to force livestock through the tub, often with the help of people on the catwalk with prods and hotshots.
With a properly built and operated BudBox, all the handler has to do is bring the animals in and stand in the correct position and do nothing but wait. It doesn’t get any simpler than that as depicted below.
This handler repeatedly emptied drafts of yearling heifers in the BudBox simply by standing where he is and waiting.
The reason a BudBox is so effective and easy to operate is because it makes our idea the animals’ idea so they willing do what we want—like going up the chute to the squeeze—by obeying the following four principles:
- Animals want to see what’s pressuring them.
- They want to see where we want them to go.
- They want to go around us.
- Under excess pressure they want to go back where they came from.
These principles place us near the entrance to the chute and between the cattle and where we want them to go (a very foreign concept to most stock handlers). This handler repeatedly emptied drafts of weaner calves in the same BudBox as shown above by standing where he is and letting the principles work for him.
By virtue of design, tubs obey none of the principles, which explains why cattle are often so resistant to going through them. Think about it: A handler bringing a draft of cattle into a tub ends up behind the animals where he or she tries to pressure them into the tub, which they are reluctant to go into because cattle often balk at the transition from open sides to solid, and entering a solid-sided tub looks like a wall from the cow’s eye view. Then, the handler tries to pressure the animals up the chute (or “race” or “snake”) from behind, but this violates all four of our principles! Often, people on the catwalk on the outside of the tub try to help load the chute, but this puts them on the outside arc and behind the cattle which, again, violates our principles. It takes a very skilled handler to understand that the proper place to work the cattle is from near the front of the tub and on the inside arc (but the design of most tubs makes this difficult or impossible).
I teach clinics on low-stress livestock handling, during which I discuss the differences between tubs and BudBoxes. I generally ask the audience a series of very revealing questions. First, “How many of you have a tub?” A majority of hands go up. Then I ask, “How many of you like it?” Rarely does a hand go up. “How many of you have a BudBox?”, I ask. On average a quarter of the hands go up. “How many of you like it?” All the same hands go up. “How many of you have torn out a tub and replaced it with a BudBox?” Many hands go up. Lastly, I ask, “How many of you have torn out a BudBox and replaced it with a tub?” No hands go up. So, it’s quite clear after dealing with hundreds of stockmen that they almost universally don’t like tubs but love BudBoxes, and many express regret having wasted their money on a tub. When asked why they prefer BudBoxes, the standard reply is that they work better and are easier to operate. Typical is the experience of the general manager of a large bison operation. He found that tubs take much more skill to operate well than a BudBox. He also found that tubs are much more easily abused than BudBoxes because you have captive animals that can be readily hot shotted and otherwise abused without worry, which you cannot do in a BudBox.
Other stockmen have retrofitted their tub into a BudBox with great success, as shown below, which is further evidence that BudBoxes are more effective and easier to operate than tubs. This 8,000 head feedyard had a very difficult time loading out cattle through their tub, so they turned it into a BudBox by cutting out the back and building a 14′ x 20′ box and re-hanging the tub gate. Now it works beautifully.
So, contrary to Grandin’s claim, BudBoxes do not take more skill to operate than tubs. In fact, in many instances, it takes a great deal more skill to get tubs to work than it does BudBoxes. Also, in my experience, it takes less time to teach someone how to work a BudBox than a tub. In many instances I have explained the principles and technique of working a BudBox, demonstrated with one draft of cattle, then had the student successfully and easily do it their very first time. This is demonstrated in the video below of my wife—a very novice livestock handler—and her first time in a BudBox (albeit one of atypical design):
Now compare this with a demonstration in Great Falls, Montana of working cattle through a tub system by two very experienced tub operators, Curt Pate and Temple Grandin.
Unfortunately, when it comes to facilities and crowd pens, the trend is towards mechanization, not stockmanship. The advent of sophisticated livestock handling systems, in a misguided effort to make livestock handling more efficient, safe and easy, is eclipsing stockmanship. This is unfortunate. As Bud Williams has said, “We are heading in the wrong direction. We should be looking for behavioral solutions, not mechanical solutions. What we’ve done is take something that we do wrong, which is poor stockmanship, and we’ve let university people design a facility to perpetuate it.” That is, tub systems were developed to compensate for poor stockmanship, but they ended up making peoples’ stockmanship even worse because these systems are designed to minimize human contact with the animals. Consequently, we end up doing a worse job and our cattle get harder to work, instead of learning how to work our animals better and making them easier to work.
Stockmen who are considering installing a tub system should seriously consider a BudBox instead. BudBoxes have proven themselves to be more cost-effective, efficient, and easier to operate than tubs.
Whit Hibbard and Dr. Lynn Locatelli detailed problems with the tub system’s 180 degree curves, solid sides, catwalks, the outside arc, “wall effect,” transitions from open to solid, and more in their article “Grandin’s Approach to Facilities and Animal Handling: An Analysis,” in Stockmanship Journal, Vol. 3(1): 1-23. The article was shared as a series with On Pasture. Click here to see all the articles in the series.
Whit has also written many articles for On Pasture to help you develop good stockmanship skills. Click here to see the series to date.
Editors’ Note: We realize that this article series could raise some hackles. In the Scoop we ran for this week, “Sometimes We Say Unpopular Things Because We Want You To Save Money,” we described why we’re sharing this. We welcome constructive conversation, comments, observations and suggestions.
Thanks to the National Grazing Lands Coalition for making this article possible. Click on over to see the great work they do for all of us. Thank them for supporting On Pasture by liking their facebook page.
Save the Date! The 7th National Conference on Grazinglands is December 2 – 5, 2018 in Reno. You’ll want to be there.