On western ranges under drought conditions, ranchers and range managers are becoming increasingly interested in placing groups of cattle away from riparian areas and inducing them to stay without the use of fences. Bud Williams and other skilled stock people are successful at placing cattle, but it requires a high degree of skill to successfully get cattle to stay where they are placed.

I recently talked to several ranch cowboys who were not able to make the cattle stay where they were placed. Further questioning revealed that they had violated a fundamental basic principle of placing cattle – they admitted to yelling and screaming, which resulted in the mother cows getting separated from their calves. This resulted in the herd returning to their old location.

Tina Williams, the daughter of the late Bud Williams, a cattle handling expert, explained at a recent conference that chasing the cattle to the new location makes the animals feel that the new location is unsafe. Frightened, scared cattle will always return to the original location because they were safe there. It is essential that the cattle move quietly, and cows and calves do not become separated.

If a cow is looking for her calf when she arrives at the new location, it’s likely she will perceive the new location as dangerous. Thus, all movements of stock people, either on foot or on a horse, should be done at a walk. You want cattle moving at a walk. Williams says, “Patience is the key.”

Kent Reeves, another low-stress handling specialist, recommends that people who are just beginning to learn low-stress methods on the range need to start on foot and learn how to move with slight body movements. After they have learned this, they can begin using a horse.