Finally, the final post to this series of the 10 Greatest Beef Innovations, originally posted by Farm Progress in their Beef Producer section.
I saved this one for last because I believe it rings clearer today than ever before: Stockmanship.
At least it should. Our not-so-much-friends from the animal rights groups are pointing this out more and more everyday which makes us as beef producers become communicators along with ranchers. We have to share the story and have that conversation about the true meaning of stockmanship vs. what is really happening. And I’m glad that the majority of of these farmers and ranchers can attest that true stockmanship is what they are really doing – even if it is an old-fashioned word.
Read the full history by Alan Newport here.
Stockmanship Is Leaping Forward Good animal handling has never been mastered, still a growing edge.
By Alan Newport
Some people say they once knew an old cowboy who was a “real stockman,” or maybe their grandpa was a good stockman.
Sadly, we nearly let the knowledge of stockmanship – what little we ever had on this continent – lapse completely into the past tense.
Burt Smith says we let technology and perhaps laziness get the worst of us. Smith was an early advocate for managed grazing and gentle animal handling skills nearly 20 years ago. He wrote a book called “Moving ‘Em: A Guide to Low-Stress Animal Handling.”
“There were and still are excellent herders. Unfortunately, we are rapidly losing these skills due to an over-reliance on ‘high-tech’ gimmicks, expensive equipment and the unfounded belief that any job worth doing must be done as fast as physically possible,” Smith wrote in his 1998 book.
Smith says America has always struggled with the clash of two old but somewhat broken livestock cultures: the overemphasis on the single animal from the English/German small-farm, limited-animal model vs. the machismo domination and de-emphasis on individual animals from the Spanish/Iberian big-herd model.
Despite Smith’s reputation as an innovator, he admits that after he saw the light in an incident with a particular troublemaking cow on the Nevada range, one of his first acts was to attend a Bud Williams stockmanship school.
It was about 1989 when Williams went public with his amazing stories and demonstrations of how a real stockman, a person who really understands herding animals, can gather animals, put them anywhere and even make them stay there. He showed he could lower veterinary bills. He could make cows better mothers. He could keep cowboys and herders from getting hurt. He could even herd semi-wild reindeer and wild-but-captive elk.
Williams’ teaching was the beginning of the rebirth of stockmanship, perhaps even a renaissance in the way we see and treat our animals – and therefore how we treat ourselves in the end.
Today, even though Williams and wife Eunice still teach stockmanship schools, many of their students and protégés also teach schools and instruct their neighbors and friends.
Williams has said many times he learned how to herd livestock from watching border collies. He explains some of what he uses and teaches is a controlled method of the tactics used by predators. But clearly, Williams is one of those rare observers who doesn’t have to do things the way someone taught him. He saw alternatives and sought change.
There exists in our past a long history with various types of herding, or at least the genesis of it. Smith reminds us herding was used by human hunters to drive bison off cliffs here, and perhaps to drive eland off cliffs in Africa.