NOTE: The following blog was written by Tina Williams of Hand ‘n Hand Livestock
“But, the land has just been abused too much, you need to let it rest for 10 or 20 years so it can heal itself.”
How many times have farmers and ranchers heard that one? Holistic Management® practitioners know and understand the land needs help to heal itself. It needs proper management and attention involving various management tools and proper timing of them all.
“But, those unweaned sale-barn calves have just been through so much, we should just leave them alone so they can get over it on their own.”
“But, our weaned calves have been through so much, we should just leave them along the fence beside their mothers so they can get over weaning on their own.”
“But, those stockers have just been hauled a long ways, we should just leave them alone in their new pens so they can settle down on their own.”
How many times have ranchers said any of the above, not realizing that, like our land, livestock need help with healing. One difference between land and livestock is, livestock need attention to their physical and their emotional needs, and we can’t (and shouldn’t) put that job solely on the animal to heal. Calves sucking their moms do have a support system. Mom takes care of their mental and physical needs every minute of the day. As long as Mom’s mind is good, the calf will never get sick and will prosper. Yes, we said that. Bud Williams said it first. Sometimes that statement is met with shock, sometimes with derision, sometimes with argument. But, it’s true! The job of your breeding animal (be it cow, ewe, nanny goat, etc.) is to breed, have her offspring, and take care of all of that offspring’s needs until weaning. It’s your job to keep her mind right and provide the necessary food, water, and shelter so she can do her job.
When you wean your offspring or buy newly weaned stockers, the job of “mom” shifts over to you. You are the one who needs to provide the mental and physical stability your livestock need when they need it. Most ranchers know and understand the importance of proper feeding and supplying water and shelter for their livestock. Universities and feed stores have lots of information and “recipes” you can easily find and integrate into your management. However, providing for the mental needs of our animals is something many people just don’t think about. This information is not coming from universities or feed stores, perhaps because there is little money to be made from it. There’s no drug, feed additive, or “recipe” that will help get their minds right. The only way to do this is to observe your livestock, properly communicate with them, listen to what they “tell you” back, and respond appropriately. Just like properly managing your land (which also doesn’t come out of a recipe book), properly working your livestock will provide your operation with positive results both emotional and financial.
We get a wide variety of questions from students who have animals who have been given all the mineral, feed, water, and shelter necessary, yet they are still upset and not producing like they should. Most of the time our simple answer, “drive them properly,” solves their problems. This helps settle the minds of the livestock from their worries, fears, or loss so they can get back to being in a “normal state of mind.” This is the state they need to be in to be at their best to produce whatever it is you need from them be it breed, calve/lamb, take care of their offspring, wean, or be productive meat animals.
And, of course, we also recommend using proper handling techniques when you do any task with your livestock. We find that any time coercive communication takes place, such as tricking or calling animals with feed, trapping them in a corral, pushing the tub gate around forcing them into an alley, etc., the animals will be put into a poor mental state. You can certainly “get the job done,” and you can even remove the stress afterwards using proper techniques if someone outside your control has done this to your animals, but wouldn’t it be better to do the job right in the first place? That way you, your crew, and your livestock can end the day feeling good about the experience and looking forward to another great day.
If your pastures aren’t producing like you know they can or should, they need proper management. If your livestock aren’t in the proper mental state to do what you need them to do, they need Proper Stockmanship. Give them all what they need!
To learn more about Proper Stockmanship and view training opportunities, visit Hand ‘n Hand Livestock Solutions.
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