CSU conference message: Stockmanship and stewardship is a fluid learning process | TheFencePost.com

CSU conference message: Stockmanship and stewardship is a fluid learning process

Marty Metzger

More than 200 people attended a stockmanship and stewardship conference Sept. 22-23 at Colorado State University's Agriculture, Research, Development and Education Center, north of Fort Collins.

Changing demands of the beef industry include assuring customers a safe and satisfying product. Many facets combine to meet this goal. The two-day program's agenda covered animal husbandry and proper care, how to humanely deal with compromised cattle and downers, low-stress cattle handling, biosecurity, vaccine handling and more.

Temple Grandin, professor of animal sciences at CSU and renowned animal behavior expert, was the keynote speaker on Sept. 22. She addressed the subject of animal welfare.

Other topics included Best Management Practices to Optimize Cattle Health by Jerry Woodruff, DVM, professional services veterinarian with Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health and Economic Considerations of Low-Stress Handling of Cattle Performance by Dan Mooney, CSU agricultural economics and Ryan Rhoades, CSU Extension beef specialist.

The training that took place on the morning of Sept. 23 consisted of a 90-minute presentation by Libby Bigler, the Colorado Beef Quality Assurance coordinator. She covered a wide variety of factors.

One was biosecurity, which Bigler said begins with a plan to avoid cross-contamination that can initiate disease. Beef producers must properly vaccinate their animals, isolate sick ones, prevent fence-line contact with other herds, pro-actively control insects and rodents, remove manure and dead animals in a timely manner, regularly clean and disinfect equipment, screen ranch visitors and provide them clean over-the-shoe booties.

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Condition is very important in the cattle industry. For example, Bigler said, the body condition score assigns a value between 1 and 9. Bigler explained how to cull calves and cows based on their score. She discussed downers and their appropriate care to bring them back to health. Should euthanasia become necessary, a specified method is to be implemented. Approved methods are gunshot — 22 magnum or higher for adult cattle — captive bolt and barbiturate injection.

Attendees, then, moved outside between several pastures dotted with grazing cattle.

HANDLING LIVESTOCK

The crowd watched and listened to Curt Pate and Ron Gill demonstrate stockmanship and stewardship.

Pate has devoted a lifetime to learning livestock handling techniques from cattlemen, cowboys, cow buyers, rodeo cowboys and coaches, butchers, hog farmers, sheep farmers and herders and more. Gill's resume includes 32 years as an educator, throughout which time he's shared technical expertise in many aspects of livestock management.

Pate said stockmanship and stewardship has been employed in cattle management for several decades now. However, it's still a fluid learning process.

"Get cows fat or bred, that's our culture," he said to the large crowd. "It's great where we're at, but we're not satisfied. I don't know how far we can take it, but we're going to go on and on."

Gill told a few younger members of the audience that he was jealous of them because their future in the beef industry will be very bright. Job opportunities for young people coming out of school are prolific. New techniques and industry goals continue to evolve.

"We're trying to break down barriers," Gill said. "There's always ways to do everything better. And if you want to get good at it, start trying to teach it."

No demonstration is complete with just talk and no action, so about 30 to 40 associates generously volunteered their time. But those Black Angus and Hereford assistants began the two-hour exhibition way out in a far-off pasture, beyond pens, alleys and chutes.

Pate and Gill jogged out on foot to herd all those tame cows past a big water obstacle, through an open gate and into a large pen complex. The impressive, albeit somewhat lengthy, endeavor was heightened by the fact that only body language controlled the large animals. No dogs, horses, vehicles, whips, prods or other aides were implemented — the idea is to at all times avoid stressing cattle.

When the combined Angus/Hereford herd reached the awaiting crowd of humans, the bovines were calm and well-mannered (as were the people). Various moves by Pate and Gill sent an individual animal where directed; other times the men worked the entire herd along the fence or to one end of the enclosure and back again.

A particularly independent black cow continuously displayed her cleverest moves. Pate persistently, yet patiently, worked her until she yielded to his kindly expertise.

"Cattle will tell you how to work them, how much pressure to use," Pate said. "That can change on a different day, even with the same animals. Change the amount of pressure to fit."

Gill said that proves you don't always need to win instantly and by any means.

"If cattle run past you in a sort, just let 'em go," he advised. "That's so against our cowboy mentality that we just can't seem to let it go. Just go get 'em later."

Pate and Gill then moved the cattle to another pen to demonstrate how to easily work a cow into and out of a chute. For the most part, the cows cooperated.

MORE SESSIONS

Directly following the presentation, the seminar's activities broke for lunch. People conversed about the morning's events at the BBQ and side-dishes buffet.

Grant Pound's self-description proves him rather unique among bovine owners. The Livermore, Colo., man owns 13 Tibetan Yaks, a species he described as impervious to climate extremes and altitude but sometimes a bit too intelligent. Pound attended the same course in 2015 but graded this year's better because of additional classroom information.

After lunch, the large gathering separated into groups for 30-minute rotations on five topics (including Designing Handling Facilities That Work by Temple Grandin and The Real Cost of Poor Stockmanship by Libby Bigler and CSU faculty).

Clyde Lane, University of Tennessee, took his first rotation of participants outside to where a truck and stock trailer were set up for an example of Stock Trailer and Transportation Safety.

Erin Hughes and David Saenz, both age 20 and CSU animal science majors in their junior year, were among the throng of course attendees. The couple plans to eventually run a Red Angus cow/calf operation. Hughes said she is also working towards a large animal veterinary degree.

"We came (to the conference) both days. It's great," Hughes said.

Saenz added, "Especially from a science perspective."

— Metzger is a freelance writer from Fort Collins, Colo. She can be reached at ponytime47@gmail.com.

Considerations for trailering cattle:

» Is the vehicle powerful enough to handle the load?

» Make sure no pop/beer cans are rolling around on the floor where they could lodge beneath pedals.

» Be aware that reaction times slow as people age.

» Consider your driving route in advance. The goal is to avoid heavy traffic, traffic lights and school zones.

» Pick a time of day with the least traffic.

» Review your insurance. Talk to your agent to see if both your truck and trailer are covered. Sometimes it depends on whose cattle you’re hauling. In the event of an accident, cattle deaths usually aren’t covered (unless so stipulated in policy) and injuries to the animals are never covered.

When inspecting your trailer, be equally thorough.

» Check all bolts for rust or loose connections.

» Look for exposed wiring.

» Always carry a good jack for flat repairs.

» Carry your spare tire somewhere easily accessible.

» Tire life is normally seven years for age (not wear). Check year of manufacture by DOT’s last four numbers. When replacing a tire, be sure new one is same size as old. Correct type for stock trailers is either ST or LT. Never use a passenger car tire.

» Be aware that the longer animals are on a trailer, the greater the stress and subsequent weight loss.

» Check lights, brakes and floor boards.

» Frequently clean out manure. It adds extra weight and can breed bacteria.

» Are your cattle fit enough to be hauled? Be sure to separate by size and gender (no bulls in same compartment).

» Are you fit to drive? If you just yelled at an employee or argued with your spouse, you’re more prone to road rage, unsafe lane changes, etc. Adjust your attitude before getting behind the wheel.

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