Basic cattle handling is not rocket science.
However, I’ve seen it made much more difficult than it need be. Moving cattle from one part of the farm to another simply by walking among them, without a horse, or a four-wheeler or a dozen helpers requires patience, and observation.
I’ll confess that it does seem like a second nature to me to think through moving an animal across the farm, but then I remember my youth was different from most people my age. Some of my earliest memories are of walking in the pasture to bring in the cows for milking. Along with my older brother, I got the lead cow going, chased the stragglers, and mastered the art of patiently handling large animals in an open field by the time I was 6 years old.
So, I’ll admit it does seem odd to me when I back up to the livestock processing facility we use to process our beef, and just as I’m opening the door of the trailer, the USDA inspector on staff, dressed in a white coat, rattles open the garage door at the back of the facility and stands directly in the line of sight of the animal I’m trying to coax of the trailer – the animal I’m trying to keep calm for the last few minutes of its life. But I digress.
If I could, I’d require all farm workers, meat inspectors, sale barn employees and truckers to undergo basic livestock handling classes, like what we cover in Deep Roots Farm Skills 101. It’s not hard, but it does require observing animal behavior and helping them do what they want to do – not forcing them to do what you want them to do.
When I try to give people a crash course on cattle handling, I tell them to remember four things:
- They cannot see you if you are directly behind them.
- If you are to the side of an animal, closer to the head than to the tail, they will turn around and go the other way.
- Once you get them all moving, they will tend to keep moving.
- Don’t yell, or make loud noises; this isn’t the “OK Corral.”
There are more components to cattle handling, and I’ve looked for a succinct training manual on this for a long time. Thank you Meranda Small and Progressive Cattleman for putting this out. I’ll be referring to it often!