Monday, June 8, 2015

How Do You Know You Do A Good Job?

If Bud Williams was even half right with his opinion that "95% of the people who work cattle for a living, have no idea how cattle really work" would mean that roughly half of the ranchers and hired hands have never seen cattle worked right. With that in mind, how sure are you that you are really doing a good job handling cattle? If you haven't seen cattle worked in the right way, then how can you get a clue you aren't doing it as well as you could?

The following is a short list of common problems. If you don't have any of these problems, congratulations, you are doing an excellent job. If you have fewer than four of these problems on a regular basis, you are doing a fairly good job. If you have more than half of these problems, you may be getting the job done, but thinking you are doing a good job is only your ego talking.

1) If you blame the cattle for how they react to you 
2) Your cattle won't stay where you put them
3) You have a lot of herd quitters
4) Cattle won't stay paired when you are driving them
5) Cattle are wild in the pens
6) Cattle won't go by you when sorting
7) You need rattle paddles or flags to sort cattle
8) Cattle can't find the gate
9) Cattle want to run off instead of going into the pens
10) You have areas where it is a foregone conclusion the cattle are going to give you a problem

The first step in getting better at the job is realizing that nearly everything they do is a direct response to how we are handling them in that situation. The second step is realizing that it is often possible to get the reaction you want out of a cow without putting pressure directly on the cow, and learn how to get the desired response without applying more pressure. There are plenty of websites and videos on the internet to help you get started on the right path.

Another difficult area for ranchers to really know how good a job they are doing is in grass management. Once again, if you are only comparing your pastures to your neighbors, chances are you have no idea of how much grass you could really have. NRCS has  drastically changing their grazing recommendations in the last few years as demonstrated in this video.  

The point to all of this is we are all biased to think we are doing a good job on the ranch. But how much room do we have to drastically improve the quality of our work?

It is possible for most ranches to increase the pounds of beef they produce per animal by simply changing the way they handle their cattle. This actually requires less labor than what they are doing now to increase their profits.

The majority of ranches could also increase forage production enough to increase stocking rates by changing how they graze. While the average ranch reduced stocking rates and fed more supplement, other  ranches managed to actually increase forage enough to increase stocking rates while feeding no supplemental feed.

While many ranches judge their overall performance on average weaning weights, the most successful ranches strive for the most pounds of beef marketed per acre. Do you still think you are doing a good job on your ranch? If you think you have room for improvement, visit Natural Cattle Handling for more information as well as other educational links.