Cattle Handling

Cows vary wildly in gentleness from a sweet pet of a Jersey family milk cow to a huge, mean, wild range bull. The following wisdom is specially applicable to working with range beef cattle, but there are wise reminders here for any handler.

Cow Psychology and Senses: Your cow's closest relative on the farm is the sheep. They're both herd-oriented, humble animals. (For least stress and best production keep 2 or more calves or cattle.) There will be a boss cow, same as the boss goat described in that section. Large cattle herds will form smaller subherds with an order of dominance in each group. A cow's best sense is her smell. She can smell her calf 3 or 4 miles away. A bull can smell a cow in heat that is miles away. Cattle have good hearing, too. They dislike high-pitched sounds like the crack of a whip.

Cow psychology is influenced by the design of a cow's body. A cow has 360° panoramic vision. That means she can put her hind foot into the bucket or kick it over on you, and it's not a lucky accident for her. She can actually see beside and behind herself without turning her head. But cows can't see color. Everything is black and white to them, so it doesn't matter what you wear. They are very sensitive to stark black and white contrasts, though, and have poor depth perception. White lines painted across a road can look like a cattle guard to them. It's hard for a cow to tell the difference between a shadow and a hole in the ground so a dark shadow can scare her into going around it. Secrets of Safe Cattle Handling

1. Move your cattle patiently, quietly. Avoid exciting or hurrying them because a running cow does its own unpredictable thing whereas a slowly walking one is likely to go where you want.

2. Cows follow the leader. If you can coax the first 1 or 2 through a gate, etc., the rest are likely to follow naturally.

3. To turn a cow you can make some noise and make yourself look large by waving your arms widely, but do this from an angle, not right in front of the animal because you may lose. Being straight ahead in the cow's way invites you getting knocked down and hurt.

4. Teach your cattle to come to a certain familiar call to get a treat of grain or a bale of hay. When you feed them frequently and handle them gently they learn to trust and depend on you. Then you can call and lead them where you want. (Always follow the call with the food reward or they'll lose faith.) This, of course, works best if they're hungry.

5. Cows are frightened of new places and made nervous by change in their daily routine. They don't take easily to learning anything new. They resent being forced to do anything. The best approach is true patience and a plan to outsmart rather than outfight them.

6. Build good fences and keep them repaired.

7. Build a corral and a loading chute.

8. A knowledgeable horse or dog can help a lot.

9. Keep a docile, hornless breed.

10. When dealing with a cow-calf pair, have a means of escape available, such as a pickup that you could run around or vault into; the cow's protective instinct might get aroused, in which case she would attack using her head. She's most likely to charge you if her calf bawls. (The strong maternal instinct of beef cattle is a usually good thing. They've been known to protect calves successfully even against lions and bears.)

11. Before you help a calving cow, first halter her and tie her to a fence post, tree, or (worst choice) pickup bumper.

12. Be careful around a cow in heat. She may try to mount you.

13. Be even more careful around a bull. Never forget its potential danger. Never come near it without having an escape route in mind. Never turn your back on it. If possible always have a second person with you. If a bull does become threatening, hamburger it. Never let children into a pasture or pen that has a bull in it.

Cattle Housing

Don Fallick, Davenport, WA, wrote me: "Cattle lean on things. And they're heavy. Anything built for use around cattle simply must be very sturdy."

Sturdy Loafing Shed
Loafing Shed

loafing Shed: A loafing shed for cattle should be anchored by posts at least 8 inches in diameter, extending below ground at least 3 feet. Old telephone poles work well. The phone company pulls poles when they get too rough to climb safely, but they may still be sound from a structural point of view. The posts can be connected by 2x8s set 2 feet on center. Skin the outside with exterior grade plywood, no thinner than Ys inch, though 3A inch is better if you can afford it. Particle board will weather better than plywood, but will never stand up to the punishment cattle will give it. Corrugated metal roofing is so good and so cost-efficient, it has virtually become standard. Such a loafing shed is cheaper than one built of cement blocks, and much cheaper than one with concrete walls, but it won't last nearly as long. A good compromise is to build the bottom 4 feet of the walls of reinforced concrete or reinforced cement blocks. Then build the top of the walls of wood. mllk Parlor: Your "milk parlor" is an outbuilding where you will milk your dairy cow(s). Don Fallick says: "A milk parlor for cattle should be built similar to a barn, but for cleanliness I favor walls of concrete, at least at the bottom. If you use cement blocks, painting them will make them easier to clean. To fasten the frame tops of the walls to the concrete or cement blocks, set L-bolts in the top of the concrete, or fill the cement blocks with sand where the L-bolts will be set, except for the top course. Then fill with cement and set the L-bolts in every third block. The L-bolts will be used to bolt down the bottom plate of the frame portion of the wall. A slick way to position the L-bolts exactly is to drill the bottom plate first and install the L-bolts in it loosely, then use it to position the bolts in the wet cement. After the cement is dry, the bottom plate can be removed and the wall framed, installed, and bolted down." Believe you me though, says Carla, it can be simpler than that.

Continue reading here: Feeding Cattle

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