If you are thinking of raising cattle as a career or for some part-time income, you’ll need to learn how to herd cattle on horseback. This may sound intimidating on the surface, but what it really requires is the right attitude, some basic knowledge, and the proper livestock tools and equipment. Here are four tips that can help you handle cattle easily and safely. But before you start read more about cattle behavior and handling here.
1. Have the Right Frame of Mind
Going into cattle handling with the right frame of mind should be your first priority. Animals are sensitive to human signals and emotions, so your stress level or sense of calm will impact the experience. You’ll find that by approaching the herd in a calm manner, handling cattle quietly, and with a clear head, you will get a more positive outcome. This correct frame of mind will also allow you and your stock-men to ensure livestock safety as well as your safety.
2. Understand Bovine Instinct (vs. Human Instinct)
Believe it or not, you’re going to need to get inside the head of your cattle if you hope to be successful at herding. Animals have behavior patterns and instincts, so understanding cattle instinctive behavior can help make your experience much more effective.
Humans and cattle are different in more than just their appearance. A human is a predatory animal, while cattle are prey animals. As predators, humans are tempted to always push from behind or try to cut off animals to stop or slow them down. Cattle have different instincts. They prefer to move in the direction they were already headed, want to follow other animals, and want to see what is pushing them. Cattle also don’t like to be rushed, prefer to travel in a straight line, and will tend to avoid shadows on the ground.
3. Learn to Properly Use a Whip
Bovine instinct also comes into play as you use cattle herding tools such as a whip. Cattle will avoid anything noisy, so you can yell or use a whip to drive them away from a certain position. The loud “pop” of the whip is enough to move the cattle in another direction, so a whip need never touch an animal while herding.
4. Use Rattle Paddles and Sorting Poles
As you herd your cattle, you may need to sort them for a variety of reasons. For example, you might want to separate steers from heifers or cows from calves. Moving cattle from one place to another is also useful when sorting. Sorting cattle can be a chore, but it is also a skill that you can develop with the use of tools such as rattle paddles and sorting poles.
A rattle paddle is a medium-length stick, available in lengths of 42″ and 48″, with a 12″ paddle on the end.The bold color, along with the sound of the BB pellets in the paddle, aid in effectively guiding and controlling the animal. A sorting pole is a long pole with a hand grip on one end that is used for the same purpose.
Cattle herding is work, but it should also be fun especially if you incorporate our 4 Tips for handling cattle easily and safely. As you implement your newfound knowledge and saddle up with your tools, make sure that you are taking along your sense of humor and as much patience as possible. In the end, this will be a rewarding experience for both you and your animals.