Here's how one person can easily and calmly collect and move cattle on pasture.

Ten years ago I attended a demonstration by Bud Williams, a cattle handling specialist from Canada. Bud gathered a group of feeder calves from a large pasture and calmly walked them slowly through a gate located in the middle of a fence. It seemed so easy.

Since this demonstration I've talked to many ranchers who have attended Bud Williams' seminars. Most of them weren't able to duplicate the method's results and scattered their cattle instead of moving them calmly. It's always been obvious that Bud's method works, since I witnessed it firsthand. But I wasn't sure how it worked ... until now.

Dissecting The Process My graduate student Jennifer Lanier and I recently attended one of Bud's seminars. He showed hours of video and discussed his patterns of movement behind the cattle. Together, we figured out how to diagram the patterns and devised simple step-by-step directions.

To test our directions, I asked my assistant Mark Deesing to try them. Mark's first attempts were a total failure. Bud's methods wouldn't work on tame cattle at the Colorado State University farm. These cattle were so tame they wouldn't get up until Mark nudged them with his foot. Cattle this tame are easier to move by leading them.

We then visited the Nature Conservancy Ranch in Hayden, CO, and attempted to move 100 cow-calf pairs between two pastures. Mark's first attempt resulted in cattle scattered all over the pasture. I observed that Mark was walking the zig-zag pattern correctly, but he was pressing on the cattle too hard which made them scatter. I instructed Mark to back off, proceed more slowly and try to bunch the cattle first. It worked like magic.

Within minutes the cattle came out of the trees and the herd bunched together. We couldn't believe it. During eight hours of seminars, Bud had failed to tell us that the cattle must be loosely bunched before any attempt is made to move them. This was the missing piece of the puzzle.

After taking the time to loosely bunch the cattle, it was easy. Ranch manager George Blakeslee and his wife Betsy tried it the next time they moved cattle and it worked for them, too.

Based On Predator Behavior This method works on the principle that a person slowly walking back and forth imitates the movements of a stalking predator. This triggers an instinctual behavior pattern that causes cattle to bunch. The handler moves at a normal walking speed (as a stalking predator would) without making noise by whistling, yelling or whip cracking. Handler movements must be steady and deliberate with no sudden jerky movements or arm waving.

These methods will not work if the cattle start running. They will only work on animals that are slightly anxious and not fearful to the point of flight.

If animals become excited in your first attempt and start running, they must be allowed to calm down for at least 30 minutes before the next attempt. There may also be difficulties if one or more of the lead animals has a blind eye. The leaders may not see the handler's movements.