Learn 12 foundational principles- Part 2

From the September issue of Drovers CattleNetwork. This is part two of two. Read part one here.

In my columns to date, I introduced and made the case for low-stress livestock handling (LSLH) as an essential component of operating sustainable livestock operations, and reviewed its requisite foundational elements: mindset, attitude, and reading, working and preparing animals.

These elements laid the basis for this discussion of principles, which will in turn lead to a review of techniques, followed with practical applications.

Principles are the why part; that is, why LSLH works. Furthermore, an understanding of principles empowers us to learn for ourselves. That is, if we understand principles we can usually figure out what to do to properly work our livestock. For that reason Bud Williams said, "Understand the principles; don"t try to copy me."

A careful study of Bud"s teachings reveals at least 12 principles:

6. They want to move in the direction they are headed.

Cattle have a tendency to move in the direction they are already headed, perhaps because it"s easier than turning. An understanding of this fact is useful in determining your angle of approach.

7. They want to follow other animals.

As noted above, cattle are herd animals. They also are social animals. Consequently, they like to follow other cattle. Have you ever watched a single animal in a herd of cattle get up and go someplace and the whole herd gets up and follows? This is what we call "good movement," and it"s the result of properly approaching, starting and driving animals (which will be the subject of future columns).

8. Good movement attracts good movement.

Knowing how to establish good movement, and how not to interfere with it once established, is essential to gathering cattle effectively and easily.

9. Animals want to see what"s pressuring them.

If you were a prey animal wouldn"t you want to see what"s pressuring you? This principle has many implications for how we position ourselves relative to the animal or animals, as we will see in future columns.

10. They want to see where you want them to go.

If someone tells you to go someplace, wouldn"t you like to see where that is? The same is true with cattle. As with the prior principle, this simple fact has implications for our positioning. Sometimes, then, we should position ourselves between the cattle and where we want them to go.

11. They want to go by you or around you.

This principle explains many things, like why it is important to work the "inside arc," why moving from front to back in an alleyway or lead-up speeds animals up, or how to properly position yourself in a crowd pen, whether it is wedge-shaped, a tub or Bud Box.

12. Under excess pressure they want to go back where they came from.

If you felt excess pressure from something wouldn"t you want to go back to where you last felt comfortable? The same is true with cattle. This principle partially explains why Bud Boxes work and have many useful applications, especially during corral work.

If you want to be a low-stress handler, it is essential to thoroughly understand and "operationalize" these principles. In future columns I will explain many specific applications of these principles.

Also, when things don"t go as you"d like when working your cattle, always ask yourself this question: What principle(s) am I violating? If you can answer that, you will likely be able to find a solution to your livestock-handling problem.

Hibbard is a fourth-generation Montana rancher and publisher/editor of the Stockmanship Journal.


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