Tag Archives: stockmanship

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

Time well spent with United Farmers of Alberta

I have spent most of the month of January in Canada.  United Farmers of Alberta is a farmer owned co-op that hosts a series of “Cattlemen’s Colleges” each year and I spoke about cattle handling.

They were great learning experiences for me.  The speakers were top notch. Marketing, finance, nutrition, forage management, and best calving practices were presented.  I did not hear one sales pitch to buy anything from the store.  One  speaker on nutrition explained how a certain blue block of salt had little value nutritionally, and was like licking metal in the subzero temperature.  He recommended loose salt added to mineral to get the best value and health from the purchase of salt.  That was real good information, but the funny thing was the store was giving away several blue salt blocks for door prizes.  Now that’s humor!

I think it is real smart what they were doing.  If I owned a store I would want my customers to be educated enough to purchase things that made them a profit.  It is in the store’s best interest to help the customer become a professional beef producer.  The more they learn and implement for-profit practices, the longer they will be in business, and when you are profitable it allows for more expansion.

Knowledge is the first step, then learning how to use the knowledge. Then keeping that knowledge and skill learned in practice and improving is the big challenge.  This kind of beef production is what it is going to take to get it done in this era of ranching.  This is also what the consumer of beef wants, a producer that treats and cares for the environment and the livestock up to their moral standards.

I am a little embarrassed when I speak in front of the Canadian rancher.  They are good people that have had a tough go of it.  You can’t believe how bad they felt for the South Dakota storm victims.  These are the same ranchers that R-CALF and other groups has cost thousands of dollars.

I am not a political person.  I am a dedicated proponent of the proper production of beef.  If you are Mexican, Canadian, or from the U.S., we all are North Americans and if we can work together it sure seems like a lot better way to go about it.

I look at this in the same way as I look at neighboring in ranch country.  I’ll bring my crew to your branding and you bring yours to mine.  If there is a range fire we all go to it and help each other by putting it out, no matter whose land it is.  In the Southern U.S. they put everyone’s cattle together in groups to improve the marketing of the cattle. Good neighbors help each other, no matter if it costs them a little, because at some point it may save them a lot, and I am not talking only financially.

I’ve seen quite a few people bad mouth their neighbor when they weren’t around, and then not say a thing when they are present, but they can’t look them in the eye.

So all you folks that are for putting politics in to the beef industry, go to it.  I hope it’s not to just raise money for your organization or cause.  I am going to stay with doing the right thing for the industry, not for my own selfish greed.

If you get in a bind and need some help give me a call.  I bet I can get some of my Canadian ranching friends to come help us out of a tough spot.  You see there are some things you don’t learn at a Cattlemen’s College.  It’s called doing what’s right, it’s called integrity, it used to be the “Code of the West.”

~ Curt Pate