Wednesday, December 7, 2022
HomeLivestockBehaviorImprove Your Stockmanship by Understanding the Flight Zone

Improve Your Stockmanship by Understanding the Flight Zone

We’ve all seen those diagrams of the flight zone. But sometimes seeing a group of animals demonstrate how it works is a lot more helpful. That’s what this video does for us. Yes, it is sheep, but the same principles hold when you’re working with cattle. Though I mostly work with cattle, I like this video demonstration with sheep because of their tendency to crowd more closely together than cattle. This makes it easier to see how our body language changes the animals’ response.

What’s the Flight Zone?

Boyd Holden, the livestock handling instructor in this 1:31 video, describes a flight zone as “the distance that animals want to maintain between us and them.” The way we approach the animals and the amount of movement we use can change the size of this zone. As the woman in the video demonstrates, when she walks through the sheep quietly and calmly, the animals move slowly away from her. The more movement, as when she jumps and swings her arms, the larger the flight zone becomes. It’s kind of like when you see an erratic driver on the highway in front of you and you give them a little more space just in case they do something really crazy.

Why Do We Care?

Working with our stock is easier when they’re calm and quiet. It let’s us be calm and quiet too, avoiding all the yelling and rushing about that is just tiring and makes for an unhappy day working with our friends and family.

Taking the time to brush up on our stockmanship skills makes for a happier, healthier herd, and a happier work environment for humans too. If you’d like some more handling tips, check out our Special Collection of Whit Hibbard’s Stockmanship How-To articles.

 

More to Come!

This video is part of a series from our friends in Australia that covers good handling techniques for sheep and cattle. I’ll be sharing more of these videos in upcoming issues. If you have suggestions or resources you’d like to share, let me know, or add them in the comments below. Thanks!

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Kathy Voth
Kathy Vothhttps://onpasture.com
I am the founder, editor and publisher of On Pasture, now retired. My career spanned 40 years of finding creative solutions to problems, and sharing ideas with people that encouraged them to work together and try new things. From figuring out how to teach livestock to eat weeds, to teaching range management to high schoolers, outdoor ed graduation camping trips with fifty 6th graders at a time, building firebreaks with a 130-goat herd, developing the signs and interpretation for the Storm King Fourteen Memorial trail, receiving the Conservation Service Award for my work building the 150-mile mountain bike trail from Grand Junction, Colorado to Moab, Utah...well, the list is long so I'll stop with, I've had a great time and I'm very grateful.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Folks need to rethink their terminology and re-evaluate their thought process! Flight zone would imply a fearful response. When using the terminology “low stress” fear should note be a tactic to aquire a result. People need to acknowledge what a predator/prey relationship is, how it works and do everything they can to not emulate it!

  2. As a master of the typo, the malaproprism, and the convulted syntax, I’d like to congratulate you on this: “It’s kind of like when you see an erratic driveway on the highway in front of you.” As an aside, when I see an erratic driveway, I check to see if I have been drinking anything stronger than Coca Cola.

    🙂

  3. Sheep are also very keyed into where you are looking. If you look at the ground directly in front of them, they will make a wider circle around you without any additional movement on your part. If you avert your gaze, the flight zone shrinks. If you look behind them, they will move ahead faster.

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