Bowie, TX, stockman Bud Williams says he hopes to live long enough to see his animal-handling brainstorm put to use in every U.S. feedlot and ranch. At 76 years of age, Williams probably won't see his dreams of a “Bud Box” in every set of working pens, but plenty of folks are becoming converts.

“The people that put them in, I don't think you could pay them to take it out,” Williams says.

Williams' development could be described as a rectangular version of a crowding tub, but it's more than the shape that makes it different.

“Most corrals are designed to work against what an animal naturally wants to do,” Williams says. “I want to use their natural instinct to work for me.”

To effectively use the Bud Box, Williams says users need a different mind-set because his design takes advantage of two instinctive cattle behaviors:

  • When blocked, cattle want to return from where they came.

  • Animals prefer to go around something they feel pressure from.

Cattle handlers need to understand this latter concept and not push cattle from behind, Williams says. Instead, handlers can work from outside or inside the pen to apply light pressure from near the exit.

Williams suggests the rectangular-designed crowd pen be built 14-ft. wide and 30-ft. long for loading a truck, or 20-ft. long when loading a squeeze chute. “Any wider than that, the person working it will get out too far in the pen and cause it not to work. The size of the pen is more for the person working it to make sure they do it right than it is for the animals.”

On a working ranch

The closing gate in the crowd pen should be solid and the sides open. “Only the gate needs to be solid; the rest works better if it's more open,” Williams says, because it allows cattle to see what's going on around them.

It's also important to avoid overcrowding; don't fill the Bud Box more than half-full. “If you fill it more than half-full, when a person steps in or works from the outside, it's too much pressure, and the cattle feel too confined. That's when problems start,” he says. Also, don't put more animals in the crowd pen than can fit in lead-up alleys to the chute or truck.

After attending a Williams stockmanship seminar, Donnell Brown decided to install a Bud Box in 2000 at his family's R.A. Brown Ranch in Throckmorton, TX.

“It works absolutely, hands-down, positively better than any setup I've ever used,” Brown says. Whether working baby calves, yearlings, cows or herd bulls, “we realized we could get more done with fewer people in less time with less stress on the cattle, people and facilities,” he says.

Brown's biggest concern was if his long-term employees, some with 40-plus years experience using traditional funnel shape or circular crowd pens, would embrace the Bud Box. They have, and are among the first to sing its praises and prefer using it.

“Just like anything new, it takes a little bit of practice to get good at it,” Brown says. “And if your cattle have been handled a certain way their whole life, it's going to take time for them to transition into responding differently to you.”

Training cattle to respond differently is a process the Browns put into place at weaning, teaching cattle to respond to pressure just like they would train a horse. In training, it's important to remember cattle's pivot-point is the shoulder.