Cattle handling for beginners

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Stark County Fair livestock auction

“Stockmanship is setting cattle up to do what you want them to do,” said Steve Cote, who shared some basic tips for low-stress cattle handling during the North Central Ohio Grazing Conference.

Cote served as a soil and range conservationist for USDA for 27 years teaching stockmanship and range management.

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1Stockmanship defined
Try out these best practices to improve your cattle handling:

  • Use techniques stock respond to naturally.
  • Stop forcing, only let cattle do what you want.
  • Stop doing things that bother stock so they can respond calmly.

2Cattle traits
Cattle need a good leader. Someone who is calm and in full command. “Don’t be tentative around cattle,” said Cote. Cattle want to know what we want, and they want to see what is pressuring them to move.

3What not to do
Don’t shove or force cattle and don’t make loud noises to move them. This stresses them out. Don’t crowd or jam cattle when moving them. Don’t follow directly behind them — move from side to side so the cows can see you. And don’t move to quickly.

4What to do
Remain calm around livestock. Animals learn things in small steps. Once they learn where you want them to go and move in the direction you want, ease up. Be persistent, but not aggressive.

5What we want cattle to do
When cattle have been trained well they should allow the farmer close enough to handle them, and they should pass by the farmers at a walk (not a run).

They should move straight ahead at a good walk and keep going. Cattle should speed up and slow down based on your movements.

Cattle should turn in the opposite direction when the farmer steps wide to the side of the herd.

They should sort well, move from field to field or pen to pen, and load on to trailers easily.

6Stress
If you practice good stockmanship cattle will become less stressed and feel more calm and secure. This will lead to less health issues, such as respiratory diseases and foot rot. Cattle will eat more which increases their production. They will also move from place to place with little force.

For more on livestock handling, visit cotestockmanship.com.

(Farm and Dairy is featuring a series of “101” columns throughout the year to help young and beginning farmers master farm living. From finances to management to machinery repair and animal care, farmers do it all.)

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