The Yards Are Bad, The Cattle Are Mad!
Perhaps its simply human nature to make excuses for why something didn’t go right or the way we wanted it to, or why it went wrong or didn’t go to plan. We all do it. We have expectations of our own, or others expectations riding on our shoulders, putting the pressure on to achieve the desired outcome, whatever that may be. Perhaps the expectations were too high or unachievable, perhaps we are our own worst enemy and put too much pressure on ourselves in order to prove something to someone else. Regardless of the reasoning, we make excuses as it’s hard to swallow our pride, be accountable and simply say I fucked up, for whatever reason.
Is it plausible to think, or are we capable of thinking that perhaps we just didn’t put in enough effort? Or we didn’t know enough about the job to achieve the desired outcome? Maybe we were underprepared, or somehow there is detachment between what we THINK we want and what we ACTUALLY want in which case we may very well have simply failed ourselves due to a lack of understanding of our innate desires.
Working rough, unhandled or poorly handled cattle in inadequately designed, busted arse yards is a tough job, there’s no question about it. Hard on the people, hard on the cattle and even harder on the end assemblies. Looking on the bright side though… it is, an opportunity.
Now I do use a little creative license from time to time but I’m not going to sit behind my computer here in civilised western Queensland and try to tell you that I’ve been yarding up ‘never before seen white man’ kinda cattle and footing down mickey bulls to tie to trees in the Cape. The only beast I’ve ever thrown was an angus heifer in Western District Victoria that was wrapped up in plain wire and moving about on three legs. Regardless of the animal’s disadvantage, I tell the story with pride.
Getting back on track, what I am getting at in a round-about kinda way is that one could have the best yards and one could have the worst yards and the scenarios could have numerous different variables that could impact outcomes. The fact is, if you can handle spunky cattle, in shitty yards and get a dang good result out of your efforts then you’re onto something, because if you can manage it with the odds against you then you can sure as shit do a splendid job in the cream-of-the-crop-tempil-grandin-stamp-branded-polished-shiny-over-designed-steel-hungry-maze-style cattle yards that are being manufactured today.
The point is, don’t make excuses, take the challenge, be prepared to change your plan to find what works and for goodness sake have a go at actually working WITH the cattle, rather than trying to make them work for you… We tend to learn more from our mistakes than we do from reading other people’s bullshit on blogs (I don’t know about you but I sure make a lot). So, here’s a suggestion folks; go commit the time you’ve just spent here reading this blog to a walk through your cattle yards, with an open mind and a genuine desire to understand what it is you are actually asking your cattle to do.
Next time you yard up, take a few extra moments to ask them the right way, you might just find a better outcome for all involved.
Every time we handle livestock it’s an opportunity to create a positive experience where both animal and caregiver can learn something from one another in a mutually beneficial and respectful relationship. The better the experience for the animal the more likely they are to behave well next yarding because they DO remember the experience and they DO remember you. Make the experience so good that they march themselves back to and through the yards willingly, it is possible!
When reviewing your yards consider the following:
- cattle crave leadership
- cattle have a desire to go half around you (working from the left eye)
- cattle crave to go back to where they came from
- PURPOSE – POSITION – POSTURE
- ENERGY – MOMENTUM – DIRECTION
Below is a video of some about 300 freshly weaned calves. These weaners were weaned of their mum, trucked 8 hours, educated for two days on good quality hay with ample water and clean yards. They were then trucked 2 hours to another set of yards where they were educated for another 5 days with good quality hay and water. The weaners were worked for a few hours morning and evening, getting acclimated to the cattle yards, worked through every gate from each direction, up and down the race, through the crush, and through the calf race. Once directed the weaners would walk themselves to wherever they were asked at a walk, in single file past the handler. They were introduced to horses, dogs and bikes until they were comfortable to eat, rest and play in their presence. The weaners were then lead out of the yards with two horses in the lead where they were asked to walk and graze for a couple of km's down a fence line, to a water hole and down to a comfortable corner to hold up for a few hours. Once the weaner started to stand and graze out again, they were asked to string out and march back to the yards, which they did, without a lead just a wing and a tail. The weaners stretched out for about a km on the walk home where they proceeded to guide themselves straight back into the yards where they were happy to eat, drink and rest again. Pretty to watch...
These weaners were tailed out a following three days with a single handler. They were left overnight in a holding paddock with good grass the night before marking and then walked about 3km with a single handler to a fresh paddock where they would rest a few weeks. These young steers are confident and respectful. They did not walk fence lines and hang in corners, they spread evenly throughout the paddock grazing and resting. Their health and growth improves daily, what a treat of a job this is!