Think%20Like%20A%20Cow

Think%20Like%20A%20Cow - Want to make cattle handling...

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Unformatted text preview: Want to make cattle handling Simpler and eater? These pres do it every day. STORY AND PHOTOS BY BECKY MlLLS ememhcr the last time you had to get your ? More than likely the cows didn’t enioy it the first time. cattle up twice in one wee and they made darn sure you didn't enjoy it the second time. Tnke pity on Doug and lVlary Ellen Hicks. Doug, head of the beef unit at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (."\ l‘lAC), and {V’lnry Ellen. Veterinarian and animal science professor, have to get the school herd up as ma ny as tour times a week for student lahs. {\nd getting; Clilllt""8ll\r"uy’ cows corralled repeatedly isn't their only challenge. The hushand—andwile team is also respousilile tor the safety of their student helpers. most ol' whom are straight from the city. No prohlem. These cows and calves calmly walk into the pen. It‘s just another Visit Temple Grandln’s web day (it school. And it proves site at www.9randin.com. The National Cattlemen’s Beet Association's Video on Mary l:llen”s point to her students. “Think like a cow," low—stress cattle handling is she tells them. “It you think available through their Cattle about how they perceive things in their environmenn Learning Center at www.beef. org, Cost of the Video is $39.95 for NCBA members and $49.95 for nonmembers. you can outthink them." For starters. cattle are hard—wired to run lirom predators. In their minds) that could he you. linter their llight zone and they are going to take off (flight) or put up a Fuss l'fightl. So, just where is this flight zone? “Think ol it as an imaginary circle,” says Doug. “Their flight zone is a comfort zone, or actually a discomfort zone," explains Mary lillen. ""l hey are like people. Everyone has [1 different comtort Zone, and it changes depending on the situation. “in a herd setting they feel sate and have a small flight zone. One animal oft hy itsell gets nervous and has a large flight zone. Read your situation." Knowing where that 7one is comes in handy when you're trying to move a hoyine. liase into it and they‘ll move. i’\nd keep an eye on their eyes. “lt they can‘t see youiil you get out of their line ol \‘lSlUlTfil’lle’ll turn and look for you? says Doug. Another tried-and-true bovine steering tool is to use point of halancea which is .it the cow‘s shoulder. It the cow is in the chute, walk past it ton'a rd her tail and she‘ll more tor—ward. It more than mental tools are needed, the Hickses rely on a rattle paddle. availahle at larm—simnly stores. or a simple sorting stick with a plastic hag tied to the end. Sometimes \lnry l3llen eyen uses a piect ol PVC pipe: which fits her requirements tor heing \‘isihle, lightweight and quiet. “‘l‘hesr- aren‘t for heating, the cattle," Doug stresses. “They are an extension of your arm.” it you‘ve tried to work upset or unruly cattle, you can vouch for this. They get hurt, you get hurt, and your pens and chute take a beating. But there is another good reason to keep cattle quiet: it helps them stay healthy. Research proves that stressed cattle are more often sick cattle. "lt is a domino effect." says veterinarian Mary Ellen Hicks. “Normally, if cattle are in a situation they perceive as stressful, their heart rates go up, their respiratory rates go up, and some researchers say their body temperatures go up.” Their cortisol levels also rise, which in turn stimulates glucose production. That’s their hard—wiring again, gearing up their bodies to take flight. Their immune systems also get suppressed, “Then, if the animal comes in contact with a bacteria or virus after it leaves the pen or squeeze chute, it is at a greater risk of getting sick,” says Hicks. All these changes also mean the bovine’s body won’t respond to vaccines as it should. it that isn’t reason One tool he doesn‘t use except in rare situations is :1 hot shot. “Hot shots muse note trouhle than they have ever helped." “They are for it skilled user’s hands only," Mary Ellen adds. Another tool the Hiekses use is food. “You can LiSe their desire to eat to your advantage” says Doug. “It you‘re going to work your cattle, start feeding them in i the pen a week ahead ol time." Cattle are erezttt res of habit, he adds. iii you plan on working them ii the morning. feed them in the i morning. 'i'hen yoL Wont make them suspicious hy shrmring up with iced buckets in the a iternoon. Also, it possihle. when you‘re moving them to a new pasture with t‘esh grass. take them through the working pen so they learn to think of it as a good place. By thinking ike cattle. the Hiekses and their students eun move and work the ABAC herd over and over without screaming, shouting,y or rough handling. “You can condit'on the cattle this way to withstand the stress of being worked," says Aviary Ellen. “But it takes hemp, exposed to the Situation in it nonthreatening way. And it you’re gentle with the cattle, you can get them hack in the pen. Most importantly, it it‘s kny stress tor the cattle. its low stress for the people too.“ Besides riding herd on the Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College students and cattle. Doug and Mary Ellen Hicks have their own commercial cattle herd. They even find the time to help friends and neighbors work cattle. Here are their tried—andatrue tips for successful cattle handling: ”1% Plan ahead. Any type ii of cattle handling or processing needs to be planned well in advance. Thinking it through reduces the chance that workers will be running around the day of processing, trying to take care of things that could have been done earlier. Take your time. Processing and loading are not a race. Enough said. Assign specific jobs ahead of time. Make sure all who are involved understand their jobs. Train, prepare and equip workers to do that job. Keep it. business. Cattle— handling time is work time, not socializing time. ' Keep the noise down. No hollering or talking loudly unless it is absolutely necessary. Cattle respond better to quiet. deliberate activity on the handler’s part, not jerky or loud activity. enough to keep stress to a minimum when handling cattle, think of those precious pounds you’ve put on them with high—priced feed. “lt can take a week for cattle to regain the weight lost during a trip through the chute,” says Hicks. Remember that less is sometimes more. Chances are you dont need 15 people to sort a pen of cattle or process calves. Two or three people who know what they are doing usually get the job done more efficiently and with less stress. Train the cattle. When it it’s doable, prepare the cattle for the activity. Take the time to ride through the herd occasionally on horseback just to check the cattle oetore they are ever worked oft horses. The same thing holds if you’re working cattle with dogs or on foot. Skip the tough guy stuff. There is nothing sissy about low—stress handling. Cattle will always have the upper hand in a contest of brawn over brains. Stay calm. if you think you’re going to lose it, step back, take a break and let someone else fill in for a few minutes. See the world as cattle see it. Know their flight zone and point of balance. That allows you to outthink the cattle. ...
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