If you want to develop your stockmanship skills, you’re in the right place. Thanks to the talents and contributions of Whit Hibbard, there’s a whole library at your fingertips. Today, Whit shows how easy it can be to head cattle where you went them to go by simply changing your own direction. (Some of these were taken on horseback, so you’ll notice a bit of bumpiness. Consider it a virtual horseback ride.) Enjoy!
The Fade Turn
In an article in February of last year, I wrote about how to guide animals once you’ve got them gathered and they’re moving well. In it, I shared a simple technique for getting cattle to turn right (or left) as they go through the gate. It starts with the familiar zigzag. As the herd walks through the gate, I simply ride straight out to the side at a 90° angle to the direction of travel as in Figure 5. This applies enough pressure on the lead animals to turn them in the opposite direction.
Who would ever guess that riding away from animals will turn them in the opposite direction from you. It took the genius of Bud Williams to figure that out! It’s called “The Fade Turn.”
Ever the doubting Thomas, it took me years before I got up enough gumption to try it, but one day I was driving about 500 yearlings by myself on a four wheeler. I needed to turn to the left so I thought, “I wonder if that thing Bud talked about – turning by going straight out to the side – will work?” So, I picked a fence post about 200 yards away and started driving my four wheeler towards it. To my amazement, the lead turned just where I wanted them to. So now I do it all the time. The video below shows just how it works.
There are two important things to keep in mind when turning cattle in this manner. First, you must go out to the side in a straight line, perpendicular to the direction of travel. What most people do is curve, and animals don’t like that because it’s predatorial. The reason people curve, Williams noted, is because as the herd moves ahead, the handler subconsciously wants to maintain the same distance, hence he curves to keep up. So, to keep from curving, Williams recommended people pick an object in the distance and walk or ride directly toward to it.
Second, you might find that you have to go way out to the side, much farther than you’d ever think. How- ever, I’ve noticed over time cattle learn what this movement means (turn in the opposite direction), so, with experience, you don’t have to go out very far before they turn.
Getting Cattle Out of a Corner
I recently shared the “45” technique in my piece about low-stress handling and corral work. When cattle are in a corner, if we pressure them from behind, they will hook around us and not go very far because they want to keep an eye on us.
What we should do is pressure the cattle into the corner at a 45 degree angle and back out. We pressure in to create movement, but then we have to back out for two reasons: (1) so we can pressure in again, if necessary, and (2) so we can guide them.
As shown below, when we use the “45” technique to get animals out of a corner they can simultaneously see the source of pressure and where we want them to go, and where they can go get to go by us. In other words, we’re using our principles to advantage to make our idea the animals’ idea.
This short video shows the technique in action.
I hope you’ll take these short tips and use them to make life more stress-free!
You can learn directly from Whit by attending one of his upcoming workshops. If you’d like to contact him about other workshops and speaking engagements, you can find his contact information and more about him at the On Pasture speaker’s bureau.