Cows are sweet, profitable, and generally amicable creatures, but they’re not particularly smart. Getting a cow to go where you want it to is not as easy as working with dogs or horses and you certainly can’t force them. Each cow weighs an average of 1,500 to 2,500 pounds making it impractical to push or carry even one cow, much less your entire herd. Fortunately, you don’t have to. People have been working on ways to move cattle from place to place for thousands of years so even if you’re new to the game, rest assured the methods aren’t that complicated. Here are 5 Beginner Tips for Moving Cattle in the Pasture.
While there are many advanced methods for moving your herd, the basic approach is incredibly simple. All you have to do is know where your cows are and understand what makes them move. Cattle will move in whatever direction you make it easiest for them to move in and will move away from anything that disturbs their bovine personal space. However, if you startle the cattle by making the wrong move, your herd will scatter making your job that much harder. To help you master the basics of cattle herding, we’ve put together five simple and easy to follow tips.
1) Find Your Herd
The first step to moving your cattle where you want them to go is, of course, actually knowing where your cattle are. Larger ranches are better for cattle as it allows them to graze in a variety of fields but it can also make tracking your cattle overland more challenging. The key is to know your cows, your land, and perhaps to use a little modern technology.
The best way to handle this is simply to move your cattle from one controlled pasture to the next so you always know where they are but if you leave your pasture gates open, prepare for the occasional cow-hunt. Track your cows by doing a wide sweep of your pastures and, of course, when you see the fresh cow pats you know you’re on the right track.
2) Move Slowly Around the Cattle
Cattle generally stay together in their herd, particularly when there are calves to nurse and protect. However, the fastest way to scatter your herd across the pasture is to approach them quickly or with loud noises. Do your best never to startle the herd or you’ll be trying to gather up spare cattle for the rest of the afternoon. Instead, move slowly and deliberately around your cattle. If you don’t make a fuss or move quickly, the cattle will mostly ignore you or try to generally move away if they feel you’re in their personal space.
The more calmly you can move, the easier it will be to get into the right position for herding. If you want your cows to go in a particular direction, slowly move around the herd so that they would need to move in your desired direction to get away from you when you do decide to bother them. This is one of the most important Tips for Moving Cattle.
3) Use a Series of Wide Sweeping Movements
Of course, you’re not a sheepdog and these aren’t sheep so don’t get started by yelling or running. Instead, make wide slow sweeping motions from side to side. Get just close enough to your cattle that they feel you have entered their personal space and move away from you. Cows aren’t complicated and they mostly want to stand with a certain distance between themselves and other creatures.
Your wide sweeping motions will serve to keep their personal-space movements in a controlled pattern so that you can send them in the direction you want the herd to go. Eventually, turn your motions into a shallow cup to pull in the sides of the herd and make sure none of your cattle wander in a lateral direction.
4) Horseback is Better
You can absolutely herd your cattle on foot simply by getting close to them and performing the sweeping motion slowly walking back and forth. However, let’s be fair, you have to cover a lot of ground to effectively wrap and push a cattle herd forward. Especially since you’ll need another sweep for every few feet you want them to move. This makes cattle herding on horseback much more effective and efficient than doing it on your own.
A horse is a mild creature who won’t bother or startle your cattle even at a trot, but they can cover a lot more ground in a short period of time, allowing each herding sweep behind your cattle to happen more quickly and efficiently. It’s no small wonder why cowboys all ride horses.
5) Try Leading Them with a Feed Truck
Finally, if you have trained your cattle to expect treats from a particular vehicle or person, an interesting way to lead the front of your herd with some energy and motivation is to bring out the treat-mobile ahead of them. Cows aren’t complicated but we have seen them run eagerly after a truck they believe to be full of sweet treats. If you are sweeping the back of the herd to make sure everyone is going in the right direction, a little incentive out front can be a powerful motivator for the entire herd to keep moving forward. It can also help you take your herd through gates that might otherwise require more work and focus.
Moving cattle through your pastures is a simple task, but it does take some time. With the right techniques, you will soon get good at locating your herd and directing them where you want them to go.
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