Alberta Slim

I learned of “Alberta Slim” this week.  I have enjoyed “Montana Slim” who is also known as Wilf Carter in Canada.  As this is the last day of the Calgary Stampede I thought it would be a good time to play this.  I really enjoy yodeling and good ol cowboy music.

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.


The Diverse Culture to Make Steak


I visited one of my favorite western stores last week. Frontier is located in Claresholm
Alberta. I’ve been visiting it for a long time on my trips to Canada. They happen to have a Greeley Hat Works hat selection. I was looking at the Greeley’s on the wall and they were the most diverse selection I’ve seen, from flat brims to dress hats. Lots of different styles.  Albertans have lots of different styles.


I continued my work this past we for Zoetis Canada. Shawn Wilson was my host this week. I have spent a week or so with three different Zoetis guys, and each week has been very different. I have enjoyed watching the way they all do there work, and they have made my work them a real good experience.

We visited all feed yards this week, two a day, a total of eight yards. Not one was the same. The first was very strict with safety protocols, and I had to wear a helmet and a Kevlar vest, as well as use a whip to work cattle. They had to ride in a snaffle, could not wear Spurs and had to have closed reins. They all wore steel toed boots and had break-away-stirrups. At some corporate yards I’ve worked with in the U.S., they had just the opposite rules on account of safety. Interesting how different opinions can be on what is safe and unsafe. I think it’s important to have safety as the culture, and how you achieve it is create skills that are safe.


They had a concrete tub set up with automatic gates. They did not believe in a “Bud Box” and felt it was dangerous, and didn’t work well.

We then went and visited with Veterinary Agri-health services. Another diverse group. From old school cowboy vet, soft spoken deep thinking vet, young Ohio shy vet, and Cody the cow vet, that is not only a veterinarian, but a social media star promoting by posting all things veterinarian, and two sharp young vet techs that both had very nice smiles. A very diverse practice. It was a very well spent afternoon for me. Feedlot veterinarians, as a matter of fact, all veterinarians are so important to our world, and I don’t understand how they keep up the pace they do. They have so much mental and physical demands put on them, I am amazed at how they keep on keeping on.


Next morning we went to a real organized yard that is expanding. They were thinkers and did not follow the herd. They did not have feed bunks but feed pads more like a dairy. The existing processing facilities was a tub, but in the new expansion they were putting in Bud Boxes. They only had one pen rider, and he was real handy, rode his young horses he was getting paid to ride. A very different feel from the day before, and the enthusiasm for feeding cattle and going forward was real exiting to them. A good group of folks came to participate, and were very engaged and eager to learn new ideas.

Next stop was mostly Mennonite Feeders and crews. Different again, but real fun people that just seemed to really enjoy the work, gave each other a hard time, and new how to make money in agriculture. Most of them worked on foot, and we put some cattle through the tub system and I shared some ideas that they seemed to appreciate. Another fine day for me learning and sharing, then I headed south to Lethbridge.

I’ve been to the next feedyard before and new the crew, so it was much different for me pulling in. They are very good horseman, have lots of experience with feedlot cattle and know how they want to do things. My mindset in this situation is to give them confidence in how good they are and challenge them to get even better. We had some great discussions in the office on the feedlot industry in general. They are very wise at Wiseman’s.

On to the next one! We pull into a new yard for Shawn and me both. Family operation and we are met with enthusiasm and a little apprehension. After we broke the ice and got to working we got long just fine. Good crew, and they had just built their own Bud box and alley, so we re-implanted a pen of cattle and shared some ideas on how to get the box working even better that they were doing. Real good folks that are getting it done a little differently than some others.


Next morning we go to a family operation that has five yards, are very aggressive, and are looking to the future. This is the first time I’ve ever gotten to an operation and they had prepared a list of things they wanted to work on. The cattle manager was very skeptical of having me there because of previous experience, but we got along good and actually worked as a team to reinforce what he had been emphasizing. The first yard they walked the pens. Then we went to another yard and they were horseback most of the time. Another diverse culture, and the emphasis was on getting the most out of everyone while keeping them happy and productive.

Cal Drake and Dr. Cam French from South Alberta Vet Services were with us and we all had a great discussion over pizza on ways to improve and go into the future. After we finished we stopped by to visit with a pen rider named Garth that I have been watching at the Zoetis feedlot challenge for the last several years. He is very good at his job and it was great learning a little bit more about him and his life. Listening to Garth about his experience in life was the cherry on top of the ice cream for my week. A real nice way to finish.

Shawn dropped me off at my motel in Calgary, and he went to his other passion, coaching and improving baseball players. Great guy with lots of industry knowledge.

I did what I like to do after working in a feedyard. I went to a steakhouse by my hotel, and had a real good steak. As I am eating it I reflect on all the things I saw in the last couple of weeks working with the folks that bring it from pasture to plate. This is such a great business we are in. As I have seen in the last ten days, we can all be very different in the culture of raising cattle for the purpose of creating high quality protein, hopefully at a profit. I believe it is not so important what style you work in, but doing what you do properly. You can wear a helmet and a flack jacket, or a flat brim hat and a wool vest, process cattle in a tub or a box, head and heal them to brand them or put em through a calf table. As I was eating that very juicy, tender and flavorful steak I don’t know how it got on my plate, but I do know I sure enjoyed it. As I watched the tables around me, I wondered what they were thinking about as they ate, drank and were merry. One lady ordered her steak well done and her husband had it medium rare. Diversity, but still enjoyment in the eating side as well.


I believe it’s not what we do, but how we do it. All the feedyards I visited were very different. Every bite of steak I took had a little bit to do with all the great people I get to work with in this great industry. Sometimes I feel like John Wayne in the movie “The Cowboys” when he says to the crew “I’m proud of you”. I’m proud of the progress we have made in the animal husbandry of our beef production in the last fifteen years.

As Shawn was heading off to coach the baseball team, I realized that is what my job is. I am a coach to improve skills in this game of animal handling. It sure is good to have such a good team.

O Canada


Wife Tammy and I headed to Alberta Canada on the 4th of July and worked with Steve Brander of Zoetis Canada team. We worked at feedyards, ranches, and started some Colts and head and heel branded some calves. We stayed with Steve and his wife Jade in their beautiful new home and ranch and really enjoyed the great hospitality. A very good 4 days of livestock handling and good people that handle them.



We went through the town of Cardston. This is the town that really started my love for All things Canadian. Some thirty years ago Buzz Cope, Stanley Johnston, were my main traveling partners, as well as some others and we went to a winter series of rodeos in Cardston. The Canadians treated us great, helped us like we were one of them and were always real fair.

We liked it so much that winter that we ended up rodeoing at Chinook rodeos as much as we could. I was never treated bad or cheated. When you are climbing on a bareback horse or bull, you really rely on the people helping you to get a fair shot and they may save your life if things get bad. The great thing about rodeo is that you are being helped by the people you are competing against. Rodeo is about try, and you are competing against yourself to try hard and improve your skills. If you win first you don’t really think of it as beating another competitor, but overcoming the challenges you face, and if you win money that’s great. You are a winner if you try as hard as possible, and ride as good as possible on the horse or bull you got on. I have been thrown off and felt better because I tried my guts out, than sometimes when I won first. I just didn’t eat as good.

We were just a bunch of young guys trying to do our best at something we loved to do. The Canadians were the same way. We didn’t care what side of the border we were on we were all just living the dream, getting on things that bucked and being cowboys.

Being a bareback rider was great, because it was usually the first event, and listening to the national anthem always got me jacked up and ready to ride. At first in Canada it was different, but then I really got to liking “O Canada” and still know the words and think it really describes the country. When I hear it now it reminds me of the good old days when all that mattered was riding good and having fun with my friends.

After I was done rodeoing my next adventures north of the 49th was doing horse clinics. Same deal. Keith and Denise Stewart hosted us and we met so many great people. We were around in the BSE times and saw how devastating it was to these good people that as far as I could see, the only difference was that they said “Eh” instead of ” you know” and drank rye whiskey instead of corn whiskey.

Now I have been doing livestock handling seminars for the last several years. I’ve watched and met so many great Canadian stockman. The more I get around them the more I admire their skills as stockman and just being good human beings.

When I hear organizations wanting to create borders and labels and talk about unfair practices, I just can’t feel good about not helping, or thinking and acting as if like minded people are the enemy.  We in the livestock business are not all that different than these kids riding bucking horses. My son Rial loved riding ranch broncs in B.C. and it was the same deal as thirty years ago. There are no borders. Wyatt Thurston stopped and stayed last week on the way to Crawford, Nebraska. Pro rodeo cowboys are just that, cowboys and they really don’t care where they are, they just want the chance to make a living and ride bucking horses, and help there competition do the same.

If you get personal, you will see we all have the same challenges. We met people that had lost family, had tragedy in their life. We saw young families making there mark in the world and trying to get a start. Young Hutterite boys respecting and learning from their elders, and making top hands.They are all dealing with debt, drought and fire and the fear of the cattle market, just the same as you may be.



So I think it might do us all good to act like cowboys. We all need to make the best ride we can, but help each other for the sake of the sport.

We in the livestock business are facing many challenges ahead, just like when I used to climb over the bucking chute. I always liked to have Stanley and Buzz there on my horses head or pulling my rope. But I always new if they couldn’t, a Canadian would jump in there as if his life depended on it. I just can’t forget that, and sometimes money is not more important than integrity and try. Ask any real cowboy.

Now back to a little more positive subject. I left the Brander’s place this morning and went to Pincher Creek, then got on Highway 22 or what they call “The Cowboy Trail”. It is a spectacular drive through great ranch country. I stopped at a national historic site, The Bar U ranch. I spent a couple hours there looking around and visiting with the folks that help out. It was a great experience and I learned much about the history of Ranching in that area, had a good cup of coffee at the wagon, and maybe the best burger ever at the restaurant. I highly recommend you head that way if you are in the area, or make a trip out of it.


I would also like to express my most humble thoughts out to the folks of British Columbia. If you remember the photos of the branding at the Chilco Ranch a while back, they were hit hard and lost a new place they had just bought and I don’t know what else. Mother Nature is tough on us sometimes, but don’t lose the faith and just keep on going. Even more reason for us all to work together in good times and bad.


I saw this add in the latest issue of Western Horseman.  I know nothing about their gear, but I sure like what this add says.

Went to Harlowton rodeo and got to help Son Rial get on a ranch bronc.  He might not have every thing in this world, but he has lots of try and loves riding bucking horses.  Maybe that’s all he needs.

Smart People


Finishing my trip that started in Wisconsin then California, then North Dakota, then Nebraska. Good trip with lots of people with lots of cattle presented too. I also heard lots of speakers.

When I read or listen to some people in the private world, that are trying to sell you something they have, often times they criticize Extension folks and corporate representatives, and condescendingly call them “the smart people”. This is their right and may be what they need to do to get the thing they are selling sold, but I think sometimes they are only looking at it from their own point of view, and are not fair to the people that are giving so much to agriculture.

The extension and corporate reps I have dealt with have been great and doing the best they can to help producers do a better job. Are they experts on every part of it? No, but they sure cover the basics and it’s up to us to figure out what to do with it. They give us the idea, we have to expand on it.

The state BQA coordinators that I have gotten to work with are just great. They have taken it to the next level using technology and common sense. Our industry is so much better because of them. The consumer is so much better off because of them(and they don’t even know it), and the animals we are in care of have benefited greatly.



I have worked with lots of these folks over the past 10 years, as well as many businesses representatives and have really learned so much from their knowledge.  Rob, Lisa, Gant, Libby, Travis, Jill, Tracy, Ashley, Marcy, Phil, Jerry are just a few names that pop into my head of some I have worked with, that should be very proud of what they are doing. So much to do, so little time and money to do it with.

I have been presenting with Ron Gill for lots of years now. I don’t understand how a person can have the time to get as much knowledge in ones head and practical experience as Ron has. He knows a lot about a lot. He has dedicated himself to educating producers in what he believes in. He is the most common sense, education and science based, with real strong morals, smart guy I know. On top of that he is lots of fun and makes life better for animals and people he comes in contact with. I have truly enjoyed all the time we have spent learning from each other, and sharing knowledge with the folks we get to present too.



So to all you “Smart People” who are unselfishly giving us your all, thank you for what you are doing. Don’t get discouraged by people that aren’t quite as smart as they think.