Tag Archives: Curt Pate

I Am Angus: Curt Pate on importance of stockmanship, future of ranching

Curt Pate was recently featured on an episode of of “I Am Angus.” In this segment, he discusses the importance of stockmanship and stewardship to the future of ranching. For those that weren’t able to catch the segment when it aired on January 2nd, you can watch in the embedded video below or click here to go directly to YouTube to watch.

~ Jesse Bussard

Fun Hater

Lets have a little fun. I have been getting pretty serious about all this writing stuff. It’s time for a funny story.

My daughter named a bucking bull after me a while back. She named him “Fun Hater” and that really hurt.  I do like to have fun, but my fun may be different than other folks.

I spend lots of my life like I am right now – writing.  I’m stuffed in an airplane with people all around me and not able to stretch my legs out.  I eat restaurant food all the time.  When I get home I have the need for freedom and the last thing I want to do is go to a movie or a concert to be surrounded by the same thing.  A good home cooked meal, having my dogs around, and throwing a few loops at the roping dummy seems more important.

Getting horseback and riding through some good grass, moving some cattle, or just riding up and looking over the Musselshell River that runs through our place is about as good as it gets for me.

When I look around me and see the stress that all these people are under just living in the crowded lifestyle so many of them must live in, it’s amazing to me we don’t have way more problems in society than we do.

If you are lucky enough to live on a farm or ranch or have a rural lifestyle, enjoy it.

For several years we traveled the country doing horse clinics and demonstrations.  Our children were home-schooled and most of the time had a geography lesson while doing other school work. This means we were going down the road in a pickup truck while they were doing school.  We had lots of fun and met many good people.

One person that we met was Charlie Trayer.  He was doing cow dog demo’s for Purina and we were on the same program several times.  We all really liked Charlie and the Hangin Tree Cowdogs he was raising so we ended up with some pups.  We had rope names for our dogs.
I named mine Lasso and Mesa named hers Roper.  They had a lot of go to them.  We decided we needed to get some goats to work our dogs the way we had learned from Charlie.

Goats were a little tough to find in Helena, Montana at the time.  I finally located some, but the lady didn’t want to sell them because they were purebreds and she was going to show them.  I think I ended up paying $250.00 each for five goats and she would buy them back when I did not need them anymore.  That’s quite a bit of money to spend on goats, but I was going to get it back so it was no big deal.  We really didn’t have anywhere to keep goats, but we did have a indoor arena, so we rigged up some pens and got ready to work our dogs.

We shut all the doors and turned the goats loose.  We got our pups and we were ready to have our first dog training session.  Mesa was probably 8 years old or so and always wore her Gus hat. She was what you’d call pure cowgirl.  We cut the dogs loose and they did want to work.  Lasso was a little older and he was aggressive.

They hit those five goats hard.  Goats were running, dogs were barking and not listening, and there were way more things going on than I thought were going to happen.  One thing I forgot to mention was the reason the goats were so expensive is they were little bucks. Lasso noticed this right away and would catch a goat by the balls and hold him.  If you have ever heard a goat cry when a dog has it by the balls, you will understand the intense drama shaping up in our little father-daughter dog working session.

Roper was running madly after the goats. Mesa was trying to catch him.  The goats could not outrun Lasso and he would get another by the balls and the screaming would start again. This did not go on for to long and Mesa said to me, “Daddy, I don’t think I want to work dogs on goats anymore.”

She got her wish, because when a goat finds that much pressure they will find a way out of it.  The goats got out through a door and $1250.00 worth of goats headed for the Scratch Gravel hills of Helena. That was pretty much the last time we saw them.

Just a few years ago I had some heifers that belonged to Craig Wenger which I had calved out for him. We also had about 60 head of two year old bucking bulls I had purchased from D & H Cattle Co.

I had been out checking some cows on a young horse that only had a few rides on.  When I got back to our place I decided to turn some chickens out to graze in a little hay field. (They were my wife’s chicken project, not mine.)

I was unloading my horse and saw that some bulls had gotten in with the heifers, and I was pretty sure Craig was not to interested in getting the bucking bull business, so I kinda hurriedly got on my colt to interrupt the bulls fun.  I was pretty busy trying to get these bulls separated when my horse decided he was not really ready for bull sorting. He proceeded to try to buck me off.

While he was taking my attention off the bulls and getting my mind to riding I happened to notice a little action in the chicken herd. My dogs had taken the opportunity of my mind being occupied with the bulls and were having a fresh chicken dinner.  Things were pretty busy for me for a few minutes.  After the dust settled, the tally stood at 4 chickens dead, 2 heifers bred, one horse rode, 3 dogs disciplined, one wife mad and a great big laugh had a few hours later.

So you see I am not a fun hater at all.

~ Curt Pate

Beef Quality Assurance

I was watching my RFD-TV a few days ago and an episode of ‘All-Around Performance Horse’ was on. It is one of my favorite shows on the channel.

They were having the High Oaks Ranch annual branding and did a great job of showing the real-life way that we work cattle. During the broadcast, they explained the reasons for doing the things that should be done to create high quality, safe beef. It was a family affair with lots of friends helping to carry out a western tradition of a very important job that some call the “spring works.”

With all our work we do to beef cattle it is very important we use certain best quality practices. No matter if you are a cowboy, farmer, feedyard employee, dairy farmer or any other person involved in the production of beef, it is very important to learn the proper way to administer vaccines and antibiotics, understand the importance of proper dosage administration, and be double sure to not market cattle until proper withdrawal times have been reached.

I used to think all this shot placement was a bunch of malarkey until I saw a demonstration of a steer posted (euthanized) after a bunch of different meds were administered improperly to him a day or to prior to the posting. I was totally shocked at the results (bruising, scarring, and general damage to muscle tissue) of misused and misplaced injections.

Because of this I became a believer and knew it was important to learn more. Please get up to speed on Beef Quality Assurance. You can go on the Internet and learn more. Most states have several BQA trainings a year and your veterinarian would most likely really like to help you to get better at keeping your beef animals properly taken care of.

I was watching I Am Angus and a feedlot operator by the name of Ann Burcholder was speaking about the quality of beef. She explained that it was very important to her operation to do the right thing because her children eat the same beef she sells. This is a great point. Get personal in your thoughts about beef quality. We all have good friends, family, and innocent children that we must protect from harm. Do it for them.

BQA started with the intent of improving what could be called chute side techniques. It has evolved to include so much more information. Beef Quality Assurance is a three word phrase that is very important and I feel all involved in the beef industry should take some time to think about its importance.

Adele Bitner, a lady I have worked with in Canada, is someone whom I feel really understands issues in the livestock industry. She once told me people don’t have to eat beef. This is a very, very important thing to realize. Consumption of beef per person is on the decrease in North America. This may be for many reasons, but I want to make sure it is not a trust issue.

The honesty and integrity of the beef producer is legendary. All the old time deals were done on a handshake and a man’s word was his most valued asset. What has happened? People don’t trust each other anymore and that is really sad.

John Wayne and the cowboys Mister Anderson, Matt Dillon of Gunsmoke, Lonesome Doves‘ Gus and Captain Call – these movie characters showed the moral standards in which the western cowboy stood for. This is what I liked about Ronald Reagan. You may not have agreed with his politics, but you knew you were dealing with a man that stood by his principles.

I am not a big fan of certified organic. When you have to certify your honesty on how a product is produced it goes against my morals, and it seems to create cheats in the system. I am much more fond of looking someone in the eye, shaking their hand, and telling them the truth about what I have done to produce the product.

This is what the phrase “beef quality assurance” means to me:  Beef producers being honest and having the integrity to learn best management practices.

I travel the country wearing a cowboy hat and with ‘Eat Beef’ stickers on my bags. When I visit with people I want to be able to honestly tell them that they can trust me and the people I represent. There is a man sitting behind me as I write this that came up and shook my hand and thanked me for raising beef. He has two young daughters with him. I owe it to this guy to do the right thing. You owe it to this guy to do the right thing. We owe it to those pretty little girls.

So a big thank you to all the pioneers in the beef industry. My cowboy hat goes off to the folks that started the BQA program many years ago, and to all the dedicated folks that are continuing the education of Beef quality Assurance, and those producers that are on the pursuit of excellence in beef. The Stockmanship and Stewardship program that the NCBA sponsors is a part of the BQA picture. I hope to do my part to increase of knowledge on animal handling and stewardship of our land. I do it in honor of the old timers, for the land and animals, and for the Dad and the two little girls behind me.

To learn how to get BQA certified go to http://www.bqa.org/ to find a meeting near you or get certified online.

~ Curt Pate

Incentive to learn stockmanship

To create desire there must incentive. Incentive comes in many different forms, some being monetary, peer pressure, pride, tradition, fear, laws, quality of life, and influence from others to name a few.

Lets use the example of a foreign language. Many people in the U.S. want to learn to speak a different language, but never do it. If we use the example of an immigrant from Mexico, most learn to speak or at least understand English fairly quickly. There is much more incentive when you involve all the reasons mentioned above, for the immigrant.

For someone just wanting to be able to go on a trip to Mexico, even though we would like to speak the language, we don’t have enough incentive to do it, so we learn a few words and phrases and even though we aren’t completely satisfied, it gets us by.

Stockmanship and stewardship are similar. As previously discussed, both are learned skills.
There must be incentive to put forth the effort to improve the skill, and the opportunity to learn.

With stockmanship, we have seen a huge increase in its popularity. It would be rare these days to see a cattle industry magazine, that does not have some mention of cattle handling. The reason for this is we have incentive.

Things like more laws on animal care, technology influence (i.e. undercover videos), promotion by cattle organizations, customer demand are examples of these incentives. Finally I believe it is becoming acceptable to learn about animal handling.

This is peer pressure I am talking about. The movie about Temple Grandin was a great display of this. The ideas she presented in the feed yard came under terrible resistance, and I feel it is because of two main reasons. First, the cattle handlers felt they had the high level skills to make the cattle do what they needed them to do (i.e. cow fighting skills). What was being presented was a threat to the need for that skill and because this was coming from an outsider that was not part of their culture and tradition, they felt uncomfortable with it. Second, humans don’t like change, especially if it is to much too fast.

In the past ten years or so we have seen a shift in attitude towards stockmanship and stewardship. It has been proven the consumer wants to know animals are treated properly,
Stock will gain better, sick and death loss will be less, injury to animals and humans will be less, and it is easier to train people to work animals properly, in less time.

Take some time to figure out if you have the incentive and desire to improve.

Remember…”It’s the right thing to do,” for all the reasons I mentioned above, but I feel the most important factor that should cause you to want to improve stockmanship skills is the self satisfaction and fulfillment you get from improving the way you do things.

Some of best times I’ve had working has been handling cattle, and some of the worst have been handling cattle. As I gain more knowledge and skill the good times a getting even better and the bad are few and far between.

~ Curt Pate

Learning to learn

As I mentioned earlier, I spent much of my time with my grandfathers. Ed Pate, my dad’s dad, was a get ‘er done fella and was always cowboy. Whatever it took…he was willing to do and he had the skills to do it.

My mom’s father, Lenard Frank was just the opposite. He always called his cows to get them to change pastures, did not enjoy “cowboyin,” and was always figuring out ways to trick cattle into doing things. I spent most of my time with him. It worked out pretty well because he would always have me riding a horse he was trying to fix and sell (he bought and sold horses) so I could get the ones he couldn’t coax in.

They both were very different in how they handled stock, and I was real lucky to have learned from them both. It was not a formal training, but if you made a mistake you were made aware of it. They sure told me some things, but really did not know how to explain to me what they wanted because they really did not know how.

A fella by the name of Butch Anderson went to work for Sieben Livestock, a neighboring ranch. So I started hanging around him. He was a real interesting fella that did things different than anyone I had seen, and he would tell me things to really help. He had great dogs and was a good horseman. He really got me wanting to learn.

I was riding lots of horses but did not really understand much about training horses. I could always ride a bucking horse, was not afraid of anything, and could get a job done on a real unwilling horse.

I started hearing about horse training clinics. Someone told me about a fella that was going around and putting people on colts with nothing on the head of the horse. Well I tried it, not understanding anything about it, and somehow survived. Then I did something that changed my life. I went to a clinic put on by a lady named Rene Pippinich. She showed us things that I did not even know existed on how to get a horse working for you. From then on I could not learn enough about working with horses. I rode lots of them and never stopped learning.

I worked on some real good ranches that all I did was cowboy and worked hard to improve my horse skills as well as roping and cow fighting ability. I worked around some real good hands, went to more clinics, and was really making a lot of progress at becoming a cowboy.

What I was learning was horse skills on how to be a good cowboy. A bunch of us would gather in Sheridan, Wyoming every spring and rope and brand a good number of yearlings. One of the owners of the cattle, Pat Puckett had been to a cattle handling clinic put on by Bud Williams and was telling us some of the things he learned. It was very interesting to me, so he explained some of the idea’s and we would work on them while we were gathering and sorting. I was hooked.

So now I am working on horsemanship and stockmanship. Lots of things happened about that time, and it was not to long until I was doing horse clinics all over the country.

I went to Red Bluff for the gelding sale to do demonstrations. I was interested in working with dogs and they have a show and sale at Red Bluff. I met a fella by the name of Paul Miller there. He was a top dog man and we were discussing some of the problems I was having working with my dogs. He told me that the same things I was saying about working with horses and cattle would work with the dog. That was just what I was missing.

I had horses, cattle, and dogs separate. It is all quite similar, and by trying to separate them I was missing a bunch.

Learning is such an important part of life. Learning how to learn is most likely the skill that you will get more out of than any other.

I will share some thoughts on learning:

  • When I read or listen to something I don’t try to retain it all, but put it in my subconscious mind and let it work its way out when I need it. This way it becomes mine, and not trying to copy or mimic someone else.
  • When you complete a task, take time to think about how it went. Find the positives first, then things that could be better, than implement and follow through with a plan to improve. If you improve each time you do something, and if you do it enough, you have to get good.
  • Use technology. Information travels at the speed of light these days. What used to take years to become a shared idea now only takes seconds, and it can also include movies, diagrams, and all sorts of other things to make an idea easier to understand.
  • Video and photos are excellent tools to let you actually see what you are doing, right or wrong.
  • The only way to get real good at something is to do it. There have been studies that prove if you practice things properly, subconsciously or consciously you will get better. The thing you must do is “do.”
  • Try to learn a little bit all the time. If you get in the habit of saving money, you will end up with a bunch of money in the bank, but having a bunch of knowledge in your brain is yours to keep, and even if you give it away you have the same amount of knowledge in your bank(brain).
  • The best way to increase knowledge is to teach. Take the time to show someone how to do something, or explain it with written words and you will be amazed at how much is learned, by yourself and others.

To me learning is one of the great pleasures in life.

~ Curt Pate

For the love of animals

Since birth my life has never been without animals, and most everything I have been involved in has had to do with the care or handling of livestock.

We had sheep, pigs, cattle, horses, and chickens on our place. It was a great way to grow up.

My step-father, Ralph Wegner was college educated and used all up to date farming methods. From a 90 sow farrow to finish hog operation, custom slaughter house, wheat and hay farm as well as a couple hundred cows, I learned much about production agriculture.

My grandfather, Len Frank went to the 6th grade and was a butcher, cattle trader, rancher, and real estate speculator. He was very frugal and understood cattle from the inside to the outside. He was the biggest influence on me in my passion for the livestock industry. He was good at dealing with people, livestock, and took excellent care of the land. He was always upgrading quality and a master at making a deal work out for everyone involved. He taught me that big was not always better and how important it was to do things right to make a profit.

My other grandfather Ed Pate, was a stockman. My grandmother told me when he was young he went on 3 trail drives from Texas to Kansas City, Missouri. He was an excellent sheep and cattlemen, and trained horses until he was well over seventy. He was in charge of the cattle on a large feedlot when I was a kid and I spent part of my summer riding pens, processing cattle, and riding on outside cattle with he and my uncle. They were great cowboys and could get ‘er done.

My father, Tex, and my uncle, Wilson, were rodeo cowboys. They got me started riding bucking horses and bulls. Most rough stock riders have a great respect for livestock they compete against and I feel fortunate to have learned this respect of animals from the rodeo world.

To me, it seems so important to understand why we do what we do. We can’t change the past, and I sure would not change mine, but it has created where we are right now. It will help you understand what you need to do to improve the areas you would like to improve upon.

It is important for you to know a little about my past, to understand why I feel and do the things I do. For me, I had the best upbringing possible. We were not rich, we were not poor, but almost everything in my life had something to do with animals, and that is the great gift that has always been in my life.

~ Curt Pate