One of the things readers have asked us for is more information on low-stress livestock handling. Whit Hibbard, of the Stockmanship Journal, has given us a great start with his articles. (We’ve put them all together in this Special Collection so you can find them more easily.) To add to that, I’m searching the internet for videos showing good handling at work so we can learn by example. This week, I’ve got three more videos out of Australia featuring Boyd Holden and put together by the New South Wales Department of Education.
In the first article in this series, Boyd reminded us of things we need to think about before we start to move livestock – like making sure we have a plan and everybody knows what it is. In these next two videos, he shows his technique for getting the cattle moving, and then how to handle them safely in corrals.
The first video is a short 2:16. Boyd’s tips include considering the class of animal being moved (cows with calves, potentially dangerous bulls, steers, or yearlings with little experience), the time of day, and the reasons the animals are being moved. Knowing which animals you are moving allows you to put together a plan that works best for the animals. By paying attention to the time of day you’ll know if the animals are at rest, are moving to water, or are actively grazing and you can adjust your behavior accordingly. Then Boyd shows how he moves animals forward by having one person lead the animals, to ensure a good pace, with the other herder zig-zagging back and forth behind the animals, moving in and out of their line of sight so they continuously move forward. Having a person in the front of the herd isn’t a technique I’ve used in the past, but I can see how it would have been helpful in some situations I’ve run into.
This second 3:23 video shows how to use parallel movement to speed up or slow down movement. In this case Boyd walks parallel to the cattle away from the gate, so the cattle will move forward through the gate and away from him. He also provides some good safety tips for handling cattle in pens, including only filling pens half full, and using hands and feet to hold gates in place to prevent them from smacking you if an animal were to bump into them. I like his attention to safety, something we all sometimes forget when we’re in a hurry.
The concept of parallel movement is so helpful, that I want to share one more video showing how effective it can be, this one with sheep. Once you see it in action, you can try it out on your own animals, whether they’r in runs or just in open pasture where I’ve found it very helpful.
If you’re anything like me, reading and seeing something and then going out and trying it with stock is the best way to learn a new technique. I hope this gives you something to try out.
Coming up in the series we’ll look at the flight zone and point of balance. If you have thoughts or experiences to share, we’d love to see them!