On June 7, 2019 Holistic Management International Programs Manager, Stephanie von Ancken, went to Socorro to meet with Mark Cortner, a local rancher and teacher in the area. Their project for the day was to move 15 cows to the Socorro Rodeo and Sports Complex in preparation for the coming weekend’s Low-Stress Livestock Handling Clinic. Guy Glosson, a long time student of Bud Williams, was en route from Snyder, TX –where he has been Ranch Manager at Mesquite Grove Ranch for the past 29 years– to facilitate the two-day hands-on workshop.
Ten participants from New Mexico, Texas, Utah and Colorado joined Guy, Stephanie & Mark at the Rodeo Grounds on the morning of June 8th. Guy began the morning session with an overview and history of Low-Stress Livestock Handling introducing Bud William’s principals of stockmanship and the experience of Whit Hibbard. Before participants had any contact with the animals he demonstrated with diagrams the animal’s flight zone and how our movements as “predators” into this zone affect the animal’s movement. He explained how the fulcrum of the animal is the shoulder and if you move towards it and then back away they will move forward but if you move towards the animal in front of the shoulder the animal will most likely turn around. He said the animals learn quickly and become more comfortable responding to pressure by finding ways to relieve it through movement which can be controlled by the rancher. He instructed participants to apply pressure by walking towards the animals shoulder and then take it away by walking towards the back and then turning around in a triangle pattern which pushes the animals forward without any other verbal or physical cues. Guy also showed some video clips of Bud Williams and Whit Hibbard that demonstrated how to move cattle along a fence, how to pass them through a 4-foot-wide gate, and how to calm them down by running them.
After the classroom demonstrations the group was eager to get outside and meet the animals. The participants sat outside the corral as Guy began running the animals up and down the fence using the body-movements he had just taught in the classroom. The animals were confused and seemingly uncomfortable at first, but quickly learned Guy’s movements and began to follow his direction. Guy has years of experience working cattle this way, so it was no surprise that when he called the first participant into the arena to practice on their own, they had a harder time making the cattle go where they intended. But even with the participants’ lack of experience with this new method, they were able to apply/release pressure and begin to move the cattle while listening to Guy’s instructions over the microphone. Each participant had a chance to practice moving the cattle up and down the fence on their own. After everyone succeeded they moved on to the next task, moving the cattle up the fence and turning them at the corner, then to moving them half way up the fence, turning them and moving them around a big blue plastic barrel Guy had set out on the opposite side of the arena.
After a delicious lunch of tacos featuring grass-fed beef from the Four Daughters Ranch catered by the Fat Man & Little Boy Grill, the participants headed back out to the area. They divided themselves up into groups of three and learned how to move as a team applying pressure on each side as well as in a zig-zag pattern behind the animals to move them through two blue barrels placed 8-feet apart that mimicked a small gate. It was tedious work at first but as the animals and participants both became more comfortable with the process they were able to execute the tasks successfully and in a timely manner. By the end of the first day even Stephanie, who had zero experience with cattle before this event, said she was already feeling much more comfortable in her understanding of the animals and her ability to move them alone, on foot. The cattle themselves were visibly more calm and eager to move than when Guy had first brought them into the arena earlier that day.
The next day was mostly spent in the arena with more hand-on practice. Classroom time included a talk on Holistic Planned Grazing and how it ties into Low-Stress Livestock Handling.
During the entire first day the cows were not willing to pass by or even slightly approach the side of the arena where the participants sat watching. But by the end of the second day not only were participants able to successfully drive them right by the audience, but they were able to put a person sitting on a stool out in the arena about 15 feet from the audience and drive the cattle between the person on the stool and the side of the arena where all the “predators” sat watching. It was incredible to see first-hand how the cows’ comfort levels shifted in such a short time. By the end of the second day they reacted quickly to pressure and they walked so close to you that you could reach out and gently pat some of them without a problem. The workshop ended with a challenging task to move the cattle in a figure eight pattern around two blue barrels. All three groups were successful!
|Rate your level of knowledge or ability increase after the workshop in:
|the basics of low-stress livestock handling
|low-stress principles for processing & shipping
|techniques for handling calves & moving/gathering cow/calf pairs
|how-tos for successful health check, pen riding & working singles
|Holistic Grazing Planning & how to improve land health
Here are the best things participants learned/experienced:
“Low-stress management techniques are critical in moving animals safely and effectively with the least negative effect upon the livestock”
“I really enjoyed spending time practicing while an expert was there to constantly critique and give feedback as I went. I learned so much in such a short period of time and am really glad I was able to attend”
“Taking stress of cattle”
“Pressure points. Paying attention to animals, individual & age group & people. Calming animals down.
Full understanding, concept & principle of low stress livestock handling.”
“How to start using my better understanding of how cattle perceive different movements from all persons involved.”
“How to approach cattle so that you do not seem like a predator to them. Treating the herd as a single entity vs. a group of individuals.”
“The basics of using Low Stress handling. The hands on training with Guy to recognize the changes in the animals and using lots of learning opportunities to improve our techniques”
A special thank you to our funder for making this event possible: