Every rancher has to move his or her cattle from one point to another at least once in a day. If done well, the undertaking will result in a fluid and safe motion for both the herders and the cattle.
Using the wrong technique could, however, lead to a frustrating mess or even result in a stampede that is dangerous to the cattle and anyone near them. It doesn’t matter if you are moving your cattle from one grazing zone to another or leading them into the cattle yards for the night.
You have to understand and strictly follow the right herding techniques to get the job done right.
Finding the Herd and Bunching It Up
The first step would be identifying the herd’s location and coming up with a plan to induce loose bunching without spooking the cattle. In the past, you would have had to use a horse, a bike or an off-road car to do this. Nowadays, you can deploy a drone to scout for you.
Once you have identified the herd, you can induce slight pressure on the edges. The amount of pressure varies depending on the terrain, heard size and wildness of the cattle. Don’t rush your cattle as this could spook them and induce a stampede.
The idea is to give the cattle that predator stare. Pace back and forth the back of the heard in a slight arc to send the message home. The cattle will instinctively bunch up.
Inducing Motion to the Heard
Once the cattle have bunched up, you can start moving closer with each sweep you make behind the cattle. Since the first step above already captured the cattle’s attention, moving closer while maintaining the arc and keeping a steady rhythm will naturally force the cattle to move away from you towards the desired direction gently.
Once the cattle on any side you are on start moving, you should gently keep moving along the arc as lingering there could make them bolt.
Always Have Enough Hands on the Job
Most herds will need more than one handler for smooth movement, especially if they are not well trained. The more the hands, the less the number of dashing runs you have to make to cover flight points and keep the herd moving smoothly. Wild cattle or untrained herds will be easier to maintain if you have more people helping you get them moving.
Train the Cattle to Respond to a Routine
If you stick to the same herding routine, your cattle will get used to your cues and respond naturally at the slightest hint. To achieve this, you have to stick to the same routine each day. If possible, move your cattle at exactly the same time and start the motion with the same cue.
This could be as simple as opening a gate or riding across from behind. The cattle will know it’s time to go home or change pastures.
Cattle herding can be fun if done right. All in all, remember that your primary goal is to keep the cattle safe by avoiding stampedes. Never be in a rush to get the job done.