We utilize rotational grazing here on the ranch. We’ll allow the cows to graze only a small area for a short amount of time, then move them to a fresh paddock to graze fresh grass. It allows each paddock to be eaten down and then rested for a period of time to allow it to recover. Although it’s more labor intensive it results in healthier pastures and healthier cows so it’s worth the work to us. The cows are all familiar with this routine and it’s easy to move them from one paddock to another – they know what to do. Occasionally a new girl in the herd will be confused and we’ll have to guide her through the gate separately but it’s seldom a lengthy process. We’re slow and deliberate with our animals and they know we’re the good guy.
The trouble starts when little ones are in the herd. The calves haven’t had as long to adjust to the routine. They’ll watch lazily as the rest of the herd gathers up and maybe yawn & stretch as the they all move through the gate. Then they’ll panic, not knowing where to go. Now anyone that ranches for a living knows that you cannot accomplish your goal smoothly with quick movements around an uncertain animal. So patiently we’ll walk behind them and gently push them toward the gate.
Now today there are three younger calves in the herd and they are looking to each other for direction – kinda like the blind leading the blind. As we slowly and gently guide them to the gate they’ll bunch up together. Then just as they finally get to the gate, one will veer left or right and then they’re all off in different directions. By this time the mamas are calling them to hurry up.
We’ll slowly gather them together again, leading them finally to the gate. Now they’ll promptly parade right past the gate and trot further down the fence line. REALLY?? The gate is RIGHT THERE! Your mom is even giving you the step-by-step directions to join her! But a patient hand will finally result in the calves getting through the gate. They’ll run to their mama – no doubt telling a wild tale of the bravery & valor it took to reach her. 😉
We’ve always had a saying: You can push even the most stubborn cow through the gate if you’re patient enough, but trying to push a calf through the gate is like trying to push cooked spaghetti in a straight line across the table.