Friday, October 5, 2012

Week Two of Holistic Herding on 32,000 Acres

One thing I want to emphasize before going any farther, is that instilling the herd instinct happens much faster when when using the same class of cattle in a herd, and all of the cattle arrive at the same time. This project is being done with the cattle coming in over a period of three to four weeks, and consisting of everything from open yearling heifers, to older dry cows, to week old pairs and calving cows.
Instilling the herd instinct in a mixed group of cattle like this is harder (but not impossible) as the younger open cows move out readily while the springers will move slower, and cows with young calves have to pick up their babies and can only move as fast as their calves. Never the less, The cattle are basically grazing the areas of the pasture they are being placed into.
As mentioned in last week's post, the weather threw a kink into the program when a cold front moved in ahead of a storm and the cattle drifted into the brush. Tracks showed that the cattle were staying together until one part of the herd hit a fork in the trail and split them into two bunches. Somewhere in the middle of the brush, part of the one group stopped while the other kept going into the next pasture, as the fence has been down in that area for years. As Monday was my day for changing pastures anyway, I gathered the draws and placed those cattle in the southwest corner of the new pasture. The following video shows how easy it is to gather in the brush and put the cattle through a gate and still have the cattle paired.

Because of the way things wound up the first week, and the move, the cattle are now in three groups, watering in three different places. Despite this, the cattle are still grazing in the same general area of the pasture, it just requires me to pick up each group off of their water point and place them. When they go to water, each group is going back to the water point they are familiar with. Despite the current stage in the training process, we are still getting the desired animal impact from concentrating the cattle as in the picture below.

When I make the move into the next pasture, the cattle will be placed into two groups on two different water points. The open cattle, cows in their first or second trimester, along with older pairs will be place on one water point, while the young pairs and cows ready to calve will be placed on a second water point. Because of their different rates of travel, this will be easy to accomplish as the first group will travel faster. I will have a person helping me on this move and one of us will simply bend the second group to one water point and hold them while the other continues with the other group to the desired water point. This will allow me to graze two different parts of the pasture simultaneously while working each with each group to get them to acting as a herd. The cattle will be in this pasture for 14 days before being mixed together as one herd. The move after the next pasture will be long, and up a steep grade. At this point the cattle will probably once again be ran as two herds in the same pasture. This would not be necessary if all of the cattle were open, or at approximately the same stage of pregnancy (or had the same age calves).
The optimum situation would have been to have all of the cows dry (or yearlings) and to have received them all at the same time. This would have shortened the training period from 4 to 5 (or 6) weeks to only a couple of weeks. However using different classes of cattle, receiving them over a period of 3 to 4 weeks, and training them in pastures with brush is allowing me to demonstrate that there are not many situations you cannot instill the herd instinct into cattle.