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The Wave – the Secret to Keeping Calves and Lambs with Their Moms When Moving Them

By   /  July 13, 2020  /  No Comments

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For the last 8-10 years I have been working on an efficient method to move new born calves and lambs from pasture to pasture. This is something that scares many people and keeps them from managing grass at the same time they are calving/lambing. Most people will have a birthing pasture that gets hammered because the animals are parked for three to four weeks. Another ‘hazard’, is that the grass in other paddocks is growing and becomes mature by the time a person starts their grazing rotation. However, there is a way to move newborns effectively and I call that method “The Wave”.

You know the “Wave” from what fans do in stadiums to amuse themselves.

Saunter - to walk in a slow, relaxed manner without hurry or effort.Here’s How It Works With Livestock

The first thing to do is open the gate to the new paddock. This is done so the herd can saunter through the gate instead of bunching up at the gate. If they bunch up at the gate, there is a universal tendency to rush through the gate once it is open and forget about the calves/lambs.

Once the gate is open the handler then moves to the back of the group and begins a zig-zag movement. Whit Hibbard describes this very well in one of his articles. The zig-zag is very slow. The handler should stop frequently and let each mother get up. Once she is up and has gathered her young, it is time to proceed past her onto the next mother. When at the edge of the group, the handler turns around and goes back on the initial path. This movement will generate some forward movement, but not a lot. That gentle movement will in turn create just enough energy to get the next ‘row’ of animals up and gathering their young. Continue this pattern until the group is moving. Of course, with any young that are still wet, you can veer off and let them mother up.  Those mothers will follow as soon as the new born can walk. I break it down in this excerpt.

When young animals are laying down and won’t get up, I have another technique I call “Flashing.” I temporarily raise my energy and move toward them quickly as shown in this video. The instant the animal moves, I immediately stop and go back to sauntering.

The ‘Wave’ takes a lot of patience, and since it takes ‘as long as it takes,’ don’t be thinking about all the other things you have to do that day. I am an ardent believer that the energy you bring when moving animals is the energy the animals feel. Therefore, when moving newborns, make sure you feel calm and relaxed.

As long as the group is moving, let them move at their own pace. They dictate the pace, not you. If you are on horseback, an old, semi-retired horse is the one to be riding for this chore. Also, when moving a distance over 1 mile, let the group stop after each mile and rest so the young can catch their breath and suckle for 30 minutes or so.

It has been my experience that animals respond very well to verbal cues. If the group of animals is trained well as a cohesive unit, I will shout ‘Hup! Hup!’ when I want them to move. This trains the group to prepare for moving when I holler and not be bothered when I ride through checking for birthing trouble. The mothers learn quickly that when they hear me holler, it is time to move and not when I am just riding through. After the young are about six weeks old, I will start using a whistle to call the group into the next paddock. This training helps immensely when grazing in bush paddocks.

Gate Locations Make This Easier

One final note, gates should be positioned such that the animals can go straight across from one paddock to the next. This prevents young animals from getting trapped walking down the wrong side of a fence because they can see animals walking down the other side of the fence. It is very important when crossing a road or swamp and will make your life much easier. I know it is a pain to build another gate, but trust me. Just do it!

So that is the explanation of ‘The Wave’. The accompanying video demonstrates all the techniques required to successfully complete The Wave on your operation.

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About the author

Tom, along with his wife Jan, started raising & direct marketing hogs, sheep, cattle, turkeys, & chickens in 1999, the same year they completed a Holistic Management course. Their operation slowly morphed into custom grazing cattle on rented land and Tom’s passion for managing grass grew in the process. Tom & Jan completed the Ranching for Profit school in 2003 and found the ‘missing piece’. Since then, Jan has fulfilled her dream of being a nurse & Tom is currently the Production Manager of a ranch in north east British Columbia.

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