The herd of lowing cows parted like a wave before Curt Pate, who rode straight up to the bull and let him know who was in charge without making a sound. Pate, a 49-year-old Montana cowboy who consulted on the 1998 Robert Redford film "The Horse Whisperer," switched his focus to cows about five years ago and has been traveling the country teaching ranchers to think like cattle and use low-stress methods of handling livestock.

At the moment, his work is sponsored by the beef checkoff program and industry partners, which is eager to counter bad publicity generated by a widely seen, secretly recorded video of cows on an Ohio dairy farm being beaten and prodded with pitchforks.

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