There is no doubt that the industry leaders are interested in having low stress cattle handling method being the industry norm rather than the exception. I am no sycophantic elocutionist, all I can do is call things like I see them. Unless there is a direct benefit to the average pen rider , cowboy or ranch hand, they are not going to see the benefit in changing how they work cattle. In order to get the rank and file pen riders and ranch hands wanting to excel in low stress cattle handling we need to do two things. First we need to show that low stress cattle handling is more efficient. Second we need to give them a reason to learn and practice it.
The best way to do this is through a series of competitions in realistic low stress cattle handling to be sponsored by BQA, with a sizable reward (as in cash and prizes) for the winners. This contest would entail riding pens just as if they were riding pens at work, only would be pulling cattle marked with paint balls. A model for the competition wold be;
- Twenty pens to be ridden by each contestant with fifty marked animals to be pulled.
- Each contestant starts with two hundred points.
- A point would be subtracted for each animal that breaks out of a walk.
- Two points would be subtracted for causing animals other than the one being pulled to move faster than a walk.
- Each contestant would have one marked animal wearing a heart monitor. The contestant raising the hear rate of this animal the least would have ten points added to their score and the second lowest raise of heart rate would receive five points added to their score.
- If a rider does not pull all of his marked cattle, they will have two points deducted from their score.
- Rider will also have two points deducted for every unmarked animal pulled.
- In case of a tie score, the fastest time wins.
While this would not be a spectator sport, it would give pen riders a reason to get interested in low stress cattle handling. If you were to check the death loss and medical costs in any feedlot, you will find that those numbers correlate directly to how cattle are being handled. The less stress being put on cattle, the lower the death loss and antibiotic costs will be. The more stress put on the cattle the higher those numbers will be. The last feedlot I worked at, I asked the hospital crew to run the numbers on all of the pen riders for a year so I could compare them. Between the person who cause the less stress, and the person who caused the least amount of stress, the cost difference was over $250,000. With that kind of losses going on, it seems as if a little prize money as incentive would be a cheap way to get more cowboys on the low stress band wagon.
To learn about my own intensive program for teaching low stress cattle handling in feedlots, visit my website.