When referencing bulls, I have been known to use the descriptive terms: necessary evils, belligerent beasts, and knot-heads. My distain for bulls runs deep – it’s no mystery. The day their work is done is something that I look forward to – even celebrate. But then in the midst of my celebration, I remember that before we can be rid of them, and their shenanigans, we have to sort them out and move them to their vacation home several pastures away. This always puts a damper on things.
It’s not so much the sorting that I dread. With the exception of one or two workaholic bulls that don’t want to leave the cows, the sorting part goes great. It’s more the moving part that makes me want to pull my hair out. Bulls have little regard for anything but their own whims, and as a result, the move usually looks something like this: loud obnoxious bull greetings, followed by prodding along at a “bull’s pace” (a slow, spread out gait interspersed with fighting, digging, and moments of heading in the wrong direction). Moving bulls – it takes a fair bit of patience and a firm grasp of stockmanship.
Fortunately, a couple of days prior to the big bull move last week, we had the opportunity to brush up on our stockmanship skills. The Cattle Capitol affiliate of the Nebraska Cattlemen hosted a day-long stockmanship school featuring Dr. Tom Noffsinger. Dr. Tom studied under Bud Williams – arguably THE best stockman that ever handled livestock – and has since become a talented teacher in his own right.
With roughly eighty-five cattlemen, women, and kids in attendance, the day started with a classroom style presentation. During his presentation Dr. Tom shared stories, statistics, and videos laying the ground work for the live cattle demonstration that followed. Having attended a few different stockmanship schools in the past, most of the information presented that day served as a nice review. However, I did pick up a few new techniques that came in really handy when it was just the dogs and I shuffling the bulls last week.
One of the first things you learn in stockmanship school is that, nine times out of ten, the behavior of your cattle is in direct correlation to what you are telling them. I’m pretty sure that one exception is in reference to handling bulls. Nevertheless, you cannot change the way they are. As with anything else, the only thing we have control over is ourselves and our reaction to their sometimes belligerent behavior. Dr. Tom’s stockmanship school couldn’t have come at a better time. It served as the perfect refresher course, and it definitely saved my sanity this past week while moving at a bull’s pace.