Building trust while working with livestock, part 4
by Bud Williams
In the last installment, Bud talked about what he has learned about teaching and herding. This time we learn about the importance of training, and about driving, sorting, stress, and teaching and learning.
There's hardly anybody in this group who uses horses who would consider taking a horse that had never ever been handled at all, and just throwing a saddle onto it and going out to gather cattle. They'd want to work with them at least for a couple of minutes.
Anybody who tries to do this without spending a few minutes to train these animals, is not going to succeed very well. Most animals, if you even do it halfway, this really helps and will allow you to succeed.
Almost every thing that is a problem with livestock is correctable if you're willing to teach those animals beforehand. If you want to take them someplace that's difficult, if you teach those animals to work for you, then when you get there it will not be difficult. It is so important that you teach these animals to work for you, just like you would teach a horse, or a dog, or anything else.
You don't have to set up a special training deal. All you have to do is to do these things better than we've been doing them, try to do them as well as you can, and you'll be surprised.
If you have a situation where you have animals in a field or a corral, that you're going through every day, once a day, if you go through those animals and you teach 5 animals to go straight, at the end of 100 days, you've taught 500 animals. If you go through that same deal and you teach 5 animals every day to spin around, because you went and pressured their hip and they spun around, at the end of 100 days you've taught 500 animals to spin around. Then when you try to drive those animals, they're spinning around, trying to cut by you, because you taught them to.
Whenever you go to do anything with your animals, the previous handling determines a lot how well it goes. A lot of people say, well I just don't have time to do this. It doesn't matter how much time you have. It means that every time you work your animals, if you work them more like what I'm talking about, they will get better and better even if you only work them a couple of times a year. It isn't how many times you work them. It's how well you work them when you do. It isn't whether you run them through the chute and give them shots. It's how you put them through the chute to give them shots.
When you have animals that are in a situation where you're going through them, whatever the reason, it's really important that you pressure so that they will walk off straight. If you have animals that are taught to go straight, you can drive them anywhere.
If you're showing registered cattle and you have to lead them, you're going to spend a couple of minutes teaching those animals to lead. You're not going to wait until the sale date and put a halter on them and try to lead them through that show ring. Yet we try to do things driving animals that we have not trained them at all for.
It's like if you were to go out to do a job with a totally untrained horse. You'd have a tough time. But every hour you get to ride him, it's going to get easier and easier to do that job. If you give up on the first hour, or start thrashing around because it isn't a perfect horse, you're never going to have a good horse. It's the same way with this.
Animals must have what I call good movement. That's when they are moving freely, moving at a comfortable pace, and going straight, going to the direction that you want them to go. Not going thisaway.
When you go to start a group of animals, when you push here, they go thisaway to get away from you. They can't go thataway because it's full of cattle. And you go out here to stop them, then you go out here to stop them, and that's when you get this type of deal. You're not supposed to go across like this, then turn and shove them. I've watched hundreds of people do it, and any ranch horse that you get on in the U.S. or Canada, you ride him across, and when he gets to this cow, he turns to shove it. If you make him go on by, he thinks you're absolutely nuts. So I know people do that.
When I'm working cattle around other people, I never stop telling, Quit shoving on them. Quit shoving on them. When they come over here they have to give that little bit of a shove.
So whenever you got an animal that's going up to a place where they need to kind of hesitate--it's different, it's open now and it wasn't open before--and you're shoving here, they're not going. They're not going to go without a fight. That stays with them. They don't trust you. They try to get away from you. They don't want to stay in the spot where you left them.
Whenever you turn and shove animals, you create a problem that stays with you and stays with you. It isn't even over with when you leave, because you stress those animals to a point where you pay for it for days or weeks later. You wouldn't like if somebody walked along shoving you from behind. They wouldn't have to shove you very hard. They could just put their finger in the middle of your back, and just pressure about that much, and pretty soon you'd say enough is enough. Let's say you come to a place where you had to step down. You'd say it even quicker.
So when you go across to drive these animals, it is so important that you're looking up here [ahead to the lead]. When those animals start off from the direction just the tiniest bit, then you must come back and straighten it out. Then you can go on across.
You have tremendous ability to guide animals from back here if you will use it. Now you can't wait till they turn and go the wrong way, and then do it from back there. You can only do it when they very first start. The sooner you correct a mistake, the easier it is. Mistakes are learning experiences. You've got to be wrong before you can be right.
We're so concerned that we're going to be wrong, we never do it right. What you anticipate, you create.
Anytime you're exerting pressure, it should be in a straight line with what the other people are doing. You've got to work with your pressure in a reasonably straight line in a T to the direction you need to go.
When cattle stall out, only one person should be pressuring. With one person pressuring and three people watching, they can help correct mistakes. When three people make a mistake, you have a problem.
You should send the "stars" to town to get something you don't need. You'll sort a lot better.
If you want to sort an animal out of a group, you do what you wouldn't do to drive them. When you're driving an animal, I want people to move across like this and back like this. When you're sorting animals, I want you to move ahead to let an animal come out, and you move back to stop the others. When you go in like this toward animals, it creates a pressure for them to come out. Doesn't matter if their rear is toward you or what, it still creates a pressure for them to come out. That's why when you are shoving animals like this you have ones breaking out. You go parallel movement you tend to stop it. This is not near as difficult for people, than going back and forth.
Whenever you want an animal to turn, you do these things that you don't want to do when you want them to go straight. It's that simple. If you want an animal to turn, get in behind it.
I don't like to sort in an alleyways. I don't mind if other people use them. I'm not a big fan of alleyways. I feel that when you put animals into an alleyway, and you more or less force them to go by you, you're crowding them and stressing them way more than you need to. Almost everybody does it.
We were at one place, and I was sorting some cattle and showing these people. Somebody said, can one of us come out there. Well, yeah, but nobody would come out. So finally there was this kid who was about 9 or 10 years old. He said, could I come out? I said, well sure. He came out there. Within about five minutes he could sort those cattle better than anybody there, because he was doing what I asked. There was nobody else who could do it as well as that kid by the time the day was over, and he learned it in five minutes-because he didn't have any preconceived ideas, he just wanted to do it like I showed him. It was very easy for him, but it was very difficult for the other people. They kept wanting to do it the way they've always done, and of course it didn't work very well for them. This little boy could do it as good as I could do it, because he did it the way that worked. They were trying to do it in a way that did not work very well, and they would not change. They would change a little bit, as soon as something started, they went right back to the old way. That isn't something that we need to do-it's something that we want to do.
Security and stress
Every time we have to correct motion, we create a stress we don't need. We create the sick cattle. Animals don't perform well when we don't handle them right.
Animals stay where they feel secure. If you take an animal from over here, and you chase it over here, this place may be the last place in the world that animal wants to be.
If you take that animal and move it properly, this is where it wants to be. There's better feed, it's very comfortable there. This isn't something that takes forever to teach animals.
Stress doesn't hurt people and it doesn't hurt animals, as long as it isn't too much stress, and on for too long. The thing that hurts animals is when you stress animals and it stays there for a long period of time. If you stress animals, and you take that stress right off, then not only does it not do any damage, it may even be helpful. They've done lot of studies and say that a certain amount of stress is good for people. Where you get into trouble with stress is if there's too much and it stays too long. Even a small amount of stress, for a long period of time, is more harmful than a lot of stress that's there for a short period of time.
If we could only change one thing that would do the most good, it would be to cut out loud noise. It is one of the most detrimental things, and probably in most cases does no good at all, and only does harm. There's almost never a case where a loud noise is beneficial.
If you get around a place where people are yelling, it's contagious. It's almost like a yappy dog. They don't know when to shut up so everybody does it. If you have a crew that is quiet, somebody comes and will start to yell, and it's just like-'why am I doing this?' and they will quit. I don't know why people do it, and it does not help.
Low noise is no problem. If you talk in a normal tone of voice around livestock, it will probably create no problem at all.
Don't do anything with livestock when you're in a hurry. If you're in a hurry, go do whatever important thing, like going to the coffee shop or whatever it is, get that out of you. Then come back and take time to move your animals-it will take you less time.
The first thing I did when I came to [Vee Tee Feeders], is I said nobody will run. I am not against running. What I am against is creating a situation where you needed to run. What I tell people is, if you get that urge to run your horse, go over the ridge and run for a ways. And then come back and drive your cattle properly. Animals don't respond well to speed. They like steady. They don't like this herky jerky. And they don't like speed.
If you have a calf break back, sure it's all right to outrun it. But when you outrun it, then is when you must start doing things right. Now you had to do some things wrong for it to take off in the first place. But when you outrun a calf, as soon as you pass that calf, you must turn and come across straight in front of it. You don't have to be a long ways in front of it, in fact you don't want be too far in front of it. You want to come across, and turn and come right back like this. And that calf will turn and walk back.
Teaching and learning
Don't ever predetermine where you'd be. Let the animals tell you.
The reason that I show and teach people on foot, more than on horseback, is because people learn better when they're walking than when they're riding a horse. It's kind of fun to gallop over here and correct a mistake when you're on a horse, but it's not much fun to walk over here for 2 or 3 miles to correct a mistake when you're on foot, so you pay attention.
If you're going to go to somebody's place to actually learn something, don't worry about what they do wrong. Watch what they do that maybe is better than what you do. Then you can go home and improve what you do. If you only go to somebody else's place, and the only thing you're looking for is what they do worse than you, you will benefit not at all. You may go home feeling good about the fact that you can do something that maybe they can't do, but it won't help you. There isn't any operation in the country that doesn't do some things good and some things bad. If they do everything bad, they'd be out of business.