The rule to be observed in this stable at all times, toward the cattle, young and old, is that of patience and kindness. A man’s usefulness in a herd ceases at once when he loses his temper and bestows rough usage. Men must be patient. Cattle are not reasoning beings. Remember that this is the Home of Mothers. Treat each cow as a Mother should be treated. The giving of milk is a function of Motherhood; rough treatment lessens the flow. That injures me as well as the cow. Always keep these ideas in mind in dealing with my cattle.
—W.D. Hoard, Founder of Hoard’s Dairyman
Richard and I got a copy of this statement when we visited the WV University Experiment Station just north of Wardensville, WV. Richard remembers his father also having a copy in their dairy as he was growing up.
Last week was the third chance I have had to work with someone’s newly weaned calves. The most recent group was a group of just weaned the day before I saw them Charolais cross spring calves. These calves had not been handled at all to speak of, other than they had been moved from one pasture to the next every third day or so. The owner called me complaining that his water tank floats were leaking, hissing and not shutting off. I had not visited with him in a while so I said I’d come over and have a look. We took one of his two leaking floats apart which both were in his corral where the day before weaned calves were bawling and walking the fence. Fixed the first float while the calves came up and drank out of the tank we were working on. Took the second float off and fixed it all the while the calves walked back and forth totally concentrating on their terrible predicament.
After both floats were fixed the owner said he couldn’t believe how the calves did not seem to be bothered by me being there. He said, anyone else comes and they head for the back corner. I said, well looks to me like they just need a walk. He smiled not knowing what to say and said he would watch and learn. So, I proceeded to walk the calves around the small lot next to the corral a couple of times and drove them straight into the corral where several got a drink and then I drove them out of the corral and back into the lot. I drove the calves around the lot a couple more time and placed them at the farthest corner away from where they wanted to be earlier. The owner and I stood and talked for probably 10 minutes and the calves never moved. He said he thought he could find time to walk them again that same day and maybe a time or two the next.
I had a chance to visit with him a couple of days ago and he told me he had never had calves that weaned that easily. None sick, no runny noses all eating and doing very well. He said those little walks had made a lot of difference in these calves. The floats work right too.
This is the third time I have had this result with other people’s calves.
This photo is from the beginning of Day 2 of the fall lawnmowing experience here on the farm. Rather than take half a day on the riding lawn mower, we move the cattle through the yard in carefully thought-out slices marked off with a single strand of electric fence. After attending a mob-grazing seminar in June, we’ve cut our slices smaller and smaller until our goal is giving them in an area about double the area they need to stand on. They grazed the area just below where they are in this photo above from 7:30 to 9:30 am.
This slice is a bit smaller than the first this morning, they are grazing it a lot better, and they finished it in just one hour. I’ve marked the far side posts with red lines. These 3 together in the left are blocking the cattle from our little flower bed in the middle of the yard. I’ve got a pretty good system of dividing out the yard which allows me to protect the plants the cattle would make a mess of yet allow them to graze everything else. They don’t eat all the ragweed plants, but they knock them down enough so we are happy with it. We do have to walk a little carefully the first few days after grazing the yard, but then we don’t need to fertilize the yard either! It’s a good trade-off!
Above is the next move west and shows how well they ate around the flower bed (just one hour on that setting) and how well they are eating their next “paddock.”
Right now they are grazing by the front porch. I’m sitting here enjoying the sound of cattle eating grass. Have you heard it? Sit in the field (turn off the 4-wheeler!) and listen for a while. Now, doesn’t that beat the sound of a lawnmower all to heck?