Herding techniques are being successfully used in Montana and Colorado to keep cattle out of riparian areas without the use of fences. Derek Bailey of Montana State University and Floyd Reed with the U.S. Forest Service in Delta, CO, recently discussed their successful methods at the Wyoming Range Management Society meeting.

The duo's methods are a combination of Bud William's low-stress herding methods coupled with new information from their research studies.

A basic principle of the Bud Williams method is to teach the cattle to move as a herd. The first step of this process is for the handler to walk slowly back and forth on the edge of the herd's collective flight zone. Doing this will trigger the natural bunching instinct (See p. 74, March 1998 BEEF).

Bailey and Reed recommend the following tips for success:

  1. Move cows and calves in the afternoon so they will arrive at their new pasture when it's time for the calves to bed down. The herd will tend to stay where the calves bed down.

  2. Don't allow cows and calves to get separated during movement to the new pasture. On long moves, cows and calves should have time to graze while being moved.

  3. Herders should stay with the cattle after they arrive at this new pasture until they settle down and graze. Williams calls this a “defusing movement.”

  4. Cull any problem cows that leave the herd to graze in the wrong place. These “bunch quitters” will make placing cattle with herding more difficult.

  5. Cattle prefer the forage plants that they ate when they were calves. Thus, cattle raised on rougher pasture in the hills may be easier to keep off lush green riparian areas. Meanwhile, cattle raised as calves on the riparian area may be more difficult to move away from this area.

  6. Cows that are “hill dwellers” are easier to keep off riparian areas than cattle that are “lowland dwellers.” Tracking cows with global positioning devices indicates that within a herd some cows prefer the hills and others prefer lowlands.

  7. Cattle breeds originally developed in mountainous areas may be easier to keep off of riparian areas than breeds originally developed on lowland pastures. MSU research indicates that Herefords prefer the lowlands, while Salers and Tarentaise prefer the hills. However, within a breed, certain individuals may be lowland or hill dwellers.

  8. The use of tasty molasses supplements will improve the effectiveness of herding for placing cattle on a new pasture. But to be effective, the cows must have had experience with the supplement so that they're familiar with how good it tastes.

  9. Herders need to spend time riding or walking quietly with their cattle. Always be quiet and calm.

  10. The cattle must be together as a herd before pressure is applied to them to make them move. To prevent cattle from scattering, the herders must induce the cattle to group themselves in a quiet orderly herd before attempting to move them.

Controlling cattle grazing without fences requires time and effort to learn. Once instituted effectively, however, more time can be spent with the cattle rather than repairing fences. In addition, use a combination of methods for controlling where cattle graze. It will be more effective than using just a single method.

Temple Grandin, one of the world's foremost experts in animal handling and behavior, as well as animal handling facility design, is a Colorado State University assistant professor in Ft. Collins. Her books and a video on animal handling and facilities are available by contacting her at 970/229-0703 or at her Web site: www.grandin.com.