I received a real well thought out letter from Ryan Sexson, a Nebraska stockman. I’ve known Ryan for quite a while now and always enjoy his thoughts, and watched he and his family display true unity at a youth livestock program in Valentine Nebraska, a few years ago.

Here’s some of his thoughts.

Curt, I don’t remember if you have touched on this in your blog or
not. I wanted to get your thoughts on the predator vs prey thing. I
thought I would share my thoughts, please let me know if I am off
First I don’t believe in low stress stockmanship, that terminology
makes it sound as if there is several catergories of stockmanship that
are acceptable. Who advertises for a high stress stockman? I believe
that if you truly strive to be a stockman you will try to keep things
as stress free as you can for everything involved. Predator prey
relationship is used way too much when folks talk about handling
cattle. As a stockman the last thing I want to do is become a
predator. I really get some cross eyed looks, I believe in building
relationships. There is a pshycological factor in stockmanship. You
have to build a relationsip based on truth and integrity, as well as
discipline and accountability. Folks really look at you strange when
you talk about relationships with stock. Cattle aren’t so different
than horses or kids, once you build a relationship they will do
whatever is asked of them. If I try to build that relationship on
fear and authority it will be one sided. When things go south my
partners will sell out and save their own skins. If I build that
relationsip on trust and guidance my partners will look to me for
leadership. I have had this discussion many times, folks always say
well a coyote can walk through a set of cows without stirring them up.
Sure it can, but don’t think that those momma cows trust it. They
know that a coyote poses a threat, even if he is just eating
cleanings. I don’t want my cattle to always be wondering when I will
be a predator and when I am just a creature walking through them.
Instead I try to think about it as the kind of relationship I build
with my kids. I expect my children to respect me not fear me. If I
ask them to do something and they do not they know there are going to
be consequences, that doesn’t mean that they live in fear of getting
beat. As I build on that relationship they learn that the more
responsive and respectful they are the less they have to deal
consequences and they start to see positive feed back. Stock doesn’t
ever see anything positive from a predator, there is always a chance
they are looking for a meal. I hope some of this makes sense.
A lot of my thought has come from listening to Temple and her
insight on trying to understand the animal. I try to put myself in the
stocks shoes.

i think Ryan is “Right on” with his thoughts, and I had a good example of it last week.


I showed this picture in the last loop I threw.  I was showing the group how I hooked cattle on and presented myself to a pen to get them trusting me.  The cattle were not overly gentle, but I was able to use a drawing pressure and as you can see by the cattle in the background the pen was real interested in me and this calf came up and wanted to be petted.


This photo is the pen right across the feed alley.  I was talking about pulling a pen.  I went about it with to much driving pressure and didn’t take the time to read and prepare the cattle, and ended up putting one through the fence.  This is exactly what Ryan is talking about.  One side of the alley I was using the right pressure, on the other side, way to much.  I was wearing the same clothes, the pen condition was the same, and it was within fifteen minutes of the other side.  The only thing that really changed was my pressure.  A saying I like is “experience is another word for mistakes”.  I just got a little more experience.

Heres the list of questions and thoughts I received at Schooten Feeders last week.  I thought it might be helpful for you that handle cattle to see and answer for yourself.

They go right with what Ryan was writing about.


1 thought on “

  1. George Kahrl

    Dear Curt, This post was quiet helpful for there are a variety of times and ways to use tools, be they pressure and release, patience and purposeful movements, “predator or prey”, or timing and thoughtfulness. Our tools, or choices might change between minutes or days, yet there is an underlying relationship which we do develop with the livestock. Our relationship also changes as we learn and grow, chasing approaches and paradigms.
    When we show up, the livestock come to have expectations about how we will “show up” and how we will work with them. I have often watched cattle watching the process. When one is in a pen, how we start out greatly affects the process. We might be working some cattle, or working to set things up, or focusing on a few. And …. the other hundreds of head in the pasture or pen will be watching us. They will/do watch us, and begin to form their relationship to us depending on how we work. Thus, I have also begun to watch the herd watch me to see how I am doing. I also watch the cattle watch the other hands in the pasture or pen. There is a relationship between the people and the livestock, and I find it is also important to pay attention to how I form my relationship with my co workers or my ranch hands. Those people will watch me as well.
    I also appreciated your post because you talked about how between one pen and the other your presence and approach changed and you had different results, one went well, the other a critter jumped the fence. Your ability to represent yourself as being as human as we are on the ranch is admirable. We all try things, and often they work, sometimes they don’t depending on many things including my own approach. Your humility, and willingness to blend yourself with us knowing we all do it well and have days we watch and learn from our own action is admirable, thank you for your humanity. Your humility, and your humanity helps with the draw, and your guidance helps us learn. Best, George Kahrl, Big Piney Wyoming

Comments are closed.