As part of outreach to the ag community, county Farm Bureaus in District 4 held a free low-stress cattle handling demonstration July 10 at Billings Livestock Commission. District 4 consists of Big Horn, Carbon/Stillwater, Sweet Grass, and Yellowstone Counties. For more than a decade, Curt Pate has been conducting demonstrations and clinics on stockmanship, colt starting, horsemanship, and safety. His personal experience incorporating effective stockmanship principles supports a “for-profit” mindset and focuses on highlighting the increased economic benefits of handling stock correctly. In addition, Pate recognizes the growing public scrutiny surrounding livestock production and the impact that improved livestock handling practices create for the sustainability of the cattle industry.
“First, you should care about your animals. Your job as a stockman is to monitor how your cattle are handled and get them ready to work when they get to a sale yard or feedlot,” said Pate. “They should work easily in the alley, load and be feed bunk broke.”
The clinician noted that a lot of working with the animal is working with its brain. “There is the left side of the brain, which is the thinking side of the brain. That’s what I call the ‘gain side of the brain.’ It’s the one that animal uses to decide to go to water and eat grass. There is more profit potential when the animal uses the left side of its brain. The right side is the reactive side which the animal uses in fear or anger. All that animal is thinking, with its head up, is getting out whether it’s under, over, or through. This is also the shrink side of the brain and costs ranchers money. Always try to keep animals on the thinking side. It not only helps with weight gain but keeps your cattle healthier. It’s been proven that if on the ‘reactive’ side, the immune system shuts down.”
Pate said cattle handling is all about pressure, either driving (moving them forward), drawing (such as shaking a feed bucket so they come to you), or maintaining. Maintaining means keeping cattle interested, keeping their eyes on you, and understanding what they perceive you are—whether a predator or not.
The group watched Pate work cattle in the alleys and into a pen as he explained how you should weave behind the cattle as a cow dog does, and how to “draw on an eye” of the cow, which allows you to calmly move her wherever you want.
Sarah Boyd, who is working at L&W Herefords in Absorkee, said she learned so much from the class, especially slowing down. “Working cows at high speed and high intensity is hard on the animals; slowing the work down is a lot less stress.”
Gage Wyrauch from Billings said discovering how to get a cow’s eyes on you, and where you should or shouldn’t be when you work them was especially helpful.
Christie Hanes, who ranches in Kirby, said was great to have a presentation that can then be used as a working model back at the ranch. She also added, “My biggest takeaway from listening to Curt was that people will spend big money for some things that we ranchers do every day. Growing up in the city and now being on a ranch, I pinch myself every day wondering how lucky I am to get this dream life I have. Thank you again for hosting. I learned so much and it was a great day.”
MFBF District 4 Director Casey Mott found the event to be helpful all around. “What we learned from Curt is that this way of working is good for the cattle, it’s good for your crew and it’s good for your bottom line.”