Category Archives: Stockmanship

The Greatest Cowboy

This man is exactly who I was talking about this week.  You can feel the confidence and knowledge this man had, and the pride and pleasure he had for his life. He influenced and helped many.  I don’t think he was ever “a day late and a dollar short.”  I hope you enjoy the video and the music this week.  I was really inspired by it.

~ Curt Pate

Stockmen of the past

My life has been a life learning about livestock from cattlemen, cowboys, cow buyers,rodeo stock contractors, rodeo coaches, rodeo cowboys, butchers, hog farmers, sheep herders, sheep farmers, dairy farmers, auction market operators, and more I can’t remember.  This was all before I was thirty years old.  I not only learned about livestock, but also about all kinds of different styles of management of many types of agricultural operations.

I went to college on a rodeo scholarship and took animal science classes.  I did not last a whole year. There were lots of reasons, but the main one I think of now is I felt I could learn more from my family at home.  It might of also been because I was about to flunk out. Since that time I have always been on a livestock operation and can’t imagine not.

I barely remember a man named Dan Buck.  He was a brand inspector that gave me my first real lass rope.  I have heard lots of stories about him.  He was a very different person and had many different ideas about how livestock should be handled.  I wish I would of known him better.

There is also an Indian fellow named Bill LaFromboise from Helena, Montana that I have known all my life.  He has a very special way with livestock and I have seen him do some amazing things with animals that I wish I could understand.

Curly Atkinson was a sheep herder and livestock man that was kind of a legend to me when I was young.  He worked for Sieben Livestock who had a feedlot next to our place and my mother cooked for him sometimes.  She and my grandfather had great respect for his abilities.  I could go on and on about the great stockmen and horsemen I was influenced by either through stories or actually working with them, but I will not.

I am pretty sure if you have been around livestock much you know what I am talking about.
My first big influence and inspiration was a fellow named Butch Anderson, as far as doing things different and working with an animals mind.  He also worked for Sieben Livestock.  I spent a whole bunch of time with him. Fom calving heifers to catching horses to working with dogs, Butch taught me to take a very different approach.

These great stockmen were just a few in the Helena, Montana area, and there are many more I haven’t mentioned.  I have been told so many stories about folks that were special with livestock all over the country. The common theme that I have seen with people that are good stockmen is that is all they have ever done.

The horsemen and stockmen instructors of the day are great at helping people that don’t get to work with livestock all the time.  The world has changed in the way we need to work stock and the modern day instructor is helping to get this done.

If you were raised on a big ranch and left you did not see all the good hands that were getting the job done while you were not interested.  If you are new to livestock you have no way to know all the top stockmen that have been in the area, so naturally you go to the knowledge that is available.

But let’s not forget the men and women of the past that have dedicated themselves to the care and handling of livestock.  From the Texas trail drivers of the 1880’s to the shepherds of Biblical times to the yak herders in Mongolia, I am pretty certain there have been a few good ones in all the livestock that have been handled through time.  It seems a little arrogant to think otherwise.

So on my part, I am sharing things I have learned through my life from good and bad stockmen.  When I give a live demo or write something it is partly how all these experiences have influenced me.  So thank you to all the folks that have shared the skills of a stockman with me.  If you have been dedicated to livestock all your life and have skills share it with others.

It really bothers me when people say that the stockman of yesterday are not up to par with today’s names in teaching horse and livestock handling.  When I give a demo or talk publicly about dealing with animals, in my mind all of the great influences of my past are a part of it. This is a huge responsibility and I don’t take it lightly.

Ballie Buck was a great stockman in our area.  He was kin to the before mentioned Dan Buck. There is a book I would recommend (available on Amazon) titled What the Cow Said to the Calf. The name of the book comes from Charlie Russell saying now there’s an Indian that knows what the cow said to the calf.

That kind of says it all about total stockmanship.  We should all try to understand “what the cow said to the calf.”  I will try to keep learning and sharing ways to get there.

~ Curt Pate

The subject this week is stockmen of the past.  This picture is of me demonstrating how to rope and lay a calf down calmly and safely.  The way the calf is calmly laying there, the other calf and my horse are pretty interested in what I am doing, and at least from this picture it looks as if you can rope and lay a calf down with out much stress, even though some say it isn’t possible.  All of the stockmen of my past, good and bad, have influenced and inspired me, and this week I pay tribute to all good stockmen.

~ Curt Pate

3-16-14

Trying to be someone else

I have been watching and participating in horse and livestock handling seminars for a long time.  One of the fascinating things to me is how some of the teachers have such a huge presence and how the followers go from following the craft or skill to making every decision and thought on what the guru would do.

The ones that seem to have the most presence are the ones that are the harshest on the students.  For some reason this seems to create a need to please, and so some seem to worship them to try to get their approval.  I don’t get it.

I always hear statements like I will never be half as good as so and so was.  Why not? And why would you try to compare it on a certain level?  Until you start competing at a competition, it is not about being better than someone else, but to improve your own skill level to the level you are willing or capable of achieving.

In my own situation, I got caught up in this.  I was so enamored by the new skills I was learning and thought it was the greatest thing ever.  After awhile I started to see that I was getting ego-based results that impressed folks and myself.  After some time I started seeing my actions were getting results, but the animals I was working with were not as content with it as I was.  I think I may be a little over sensitive to animals sometimes, so it helped me to question if what I was doing was right.  I felt I was physically doing things one way, but talking about it another.  Just because you have the feel-good words to describe what you are doing, it does not mean you are giving the animal you are working with the best deal.

I watched a real good fellow in the horse industry for several years struggle.  He was an apprentice under a real popular horse guru.  When he finally quit using that person’s name and started doing his own thing, his horsemanship really improved. He went from trying to get work to having more than he can handle. He was able to help a lot more people.  He and his mentor are still friends, but now I think he is helping his mentor with some things.  Isn’t that great?  It’s great on both accounts.  The student for improving and the teacher for still wanting to learn more.

I like to use the greats to inspire me to do things I did not know were possible.  I am no longer interested in ego-based animal interaction. Though I still fall off the wagon once in a while. What I am interested in is learning how to work with animals to improve humans’ quality of life without diminishing the animals’ quality of life.  There are limits to what we can ask of animals to do for us.  We can put the line out there much farther if we learn to work with the animals in a better way, but there is a line.

This is what I think the truly great animal communicators can do for us.  Inspire us.  Help us to not make unneeded mistakes.  Save us time in our learning.

So be yourself, have a strong desire to improve yourself to what you want to be, and don’t be afraid to not do what everyone else is doing.  If everyone is doing it, it may be the easy way out. You will be comfortable because you fit in, but it may not be the best way.

For it to be the best for you, it has to be you not someone else.

~ Curt Pate

Proper pressure

My focus this week is working with bulls. For those of you that don’t work with livestock, I think the same principles apply to people handling. I challenge you to think of handling humans with proper pressure for better results, and hope by reading this it will get you thinking about how to work better with all things with a mind.

The subject this week is proper pressure. When working with bulls not applying and using pressure properly will result in negative results quicker than any other class of cattle.

There are many things to consider when working with a single bull. The distance you work from the bull should be determined by the bull. If you try to work the bull to close and keep the pressure on he will get agitated or find someplace to keep the pressure off (i.e. going in the brush). If you are hesitant, and work to far away the bull will learn very quickly that he is in control and can control the handler.

Most bulls are thicker and more muscular than other types of cattle and can’t bend as easily as others. If you get behind them they can’t see you as well and can’t bend so they either stop and wait for you or they turn and look at you. Either result is negative and creates the need to reapply pressure to start the process over.

You should start the pressure from the side in an area the bull can see you without bending its head and move towards the bull at an angle that keeps the head pointed in the direction you want it to go. You will also need to step forward at an angle that will keep the head pointed in the desired direction. If the head turns, step back immediately, then step forward at the given angle and speed the bull is indicating will work. This is reading the bull. He will tell you what to do if you are observant and can think about what to do at the right moment.

The more you work with a single bull properly, the better he will be to work. You are communicating to the bull that if he moves you will not put more pressure on than he can take. If you work a single bull properly and enough, he will learn to work, and not get as agitated because of this training.

When working a group of bulls it is much different than any other group of cattle. Fighting is the problem. When one bull challenges another bull it causes the bulls to have their minds on the other bull. The other bull puts much more pressure on than the human can safely do so the handler can’t do much until the fighting stops. If you get to a spot that you can get the bulls attention, it is very dangerous because one bull running from or being pushed by another is very fast and hard to get out of the way of. The first few times you handle a group of bulls they will have to have some time to work things out amongst themselves. If you don’t have time and space it can get dangerous. Once the bulls get things worked out, they will be good to handle if you pressure them properly.

By teaching bulls to understand pressure you will actually teach them to fight less, because they have learned to respond and move away from pressure. This relates to other bulls’ pressure as well. It will not eliminate fighting, but reduce it and make it easier to stop once it has started.

From my observations it is very important to learn how to teach bulls to work. Safety is the main reason, productivity second. If you are a professional, these things are important. Make the time to train bulls to work. If I was selling herd bulls I would train them to load in a stock trailer out in the open. This would be so valuable for the purchaser, and would force the herdsman to teach the bulls to take pressure to get them to load. Just an idea …

I purchased a bunch of bucking bull yearlings from D&H Cattle Co. a few years back. One of the bulls was a great looking bull but real mean. He was trying to hook the horses when they were bringing them in and when I was feeding would try to hook me when I was taking strings off the bale. I challenged myself to change him. He still gets on the fight if he gets to much pressure, but he seems to enjoy being worked properly and likes to be around me. I really like this bull. He taught me a lot on how to work with an animal that is on the fight.

curt rides cow 2

Curt and the bull named “H”

I can pick his feet up and and scratch him all over, but I am very careful about how I approach him and move him. I like the savvy old saying, “Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear, or a fool from any direction.” Now those are words to live by.

~ Curt Pate