Happy Cows Don't Bawl

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posted on

June 27, 2019

By Tina Williams and Richard McConnell    


"Bawling Livestock need something; you need to figure it out and give it to them."  

BOLIVAR, Missouri:  Richard's cows used to bawl.  When we first met, he rotated his cows every three days.  On the second day of three, his cows would hear his truck coming home from work, and they would gather at the gate and start bawling.  Richard asked Dad (Bud Williams) about this.    

 Dad gave his first usual answer, "Well, do you like this?"     

To which Richard replied, "No, I don't like it."     

So, Dad told him to  "drive them away from the gate." 

Richard said they would just beat him back to the gate, and Dad told him that was ok, just drive them away again.  Richard could see the discussion was just going in circles. so he gave in.     

The Wednesday after that visit and Dad's suggestion, sure enough, the ows were standing at the gate bawling when Richard drove p frm work.  So, he went to the gate the cows were standing around bawling and drove them back out into the paddock they were currently grazing.     

He turned to walk back to the gate and, as he anticipated, several of the cows ran around and beat hi to the gate.  Several of the cow followed bawling all the way.  But, Dad had said to drive them away again, so Richard did.     

This time most of the cows stayed in the middle of the pasure, and only a couple of the really serious ones came back to the gate, though they didn't beat Richard.  Some of the other cows wandered toward to the gate, but the main group was still in the middle of the pasture thinking the situation over.  Richard went back to the gate and drove them all back to the middle of the pasture for the third time and walked back to the gate.     

Those cows NEVER again stood bawling at the gate and never bawled over moving again.  They learned, through the discipline of those three drives, that Richard would tell them when to move, they could be happy where they are, and there was just no need to be hanging around upset and bawling.  This would turn out to be the last time Richard tried to prove Dad wrong!     

We believe bawling is a sign that the minds of the animals, for whatever reason, isn't right or that something is wrong with their situation.  One of Dad's favorite sayings was, "Give them what they need."  Bawling livestock need something:  you need to figure out what it is and then give it to them, and they will quit bawling.     

One day we moved our cows to a new paddock.  After about three hours we heard them bawling.  At first we just ignored it.  Then we remembered they don't usually bawl, and maybe we needed to figure out what they needed and give it to them!  

When we got to the paddock we found we hadn't turned the water tank on.  They needed water!  Just think though, if you are used to your animals bawling, would you even have noticed this and went to check it out?     

When we visit a place for a consultation, the first thing we do when we step out of the car is listen.  If the livestock are bawling, we know right off something is wrong needing our attention.  Or, the opposite is also true.  We've driven up to a 28,000 head feedlot and not heard one bawl.  We visited a dairy with about 400 head under one roof and the only sound was the robotic milker whishing, the fans and the birds chirping outside.  And we've driven up to a 200 head background yard where the bawling was deafening.  Two mornings later when we got up to leave, there wasn't one sound!    

 "What about bawling during weaning?"  

This is a pretty obvious situation where the bawling is a sign that their minds aren't right and that you need to intervene.  Drive the calves, drive the cows and take the stress off them.  Let the calves know you are there to provide the things their mamma used to provide and that you will take great care of them.  The bawling will quickly be replaced with happy, "normal" animals eating, drinking, and growing.     

We use the example of the Black Friday Sales to explain what's going on in the minds of your livestock when you encourage excitement into their feeding.  The people lined up at Wal-Mart to try and buy one of the ten 99 inch TVs for $250 are not in a calm and happy state of mind.  They are excited and stressed.  Their minds are not right!

"The mind of the cow should be concentrated on her calf first and and all else second."

     Your livestock do not need to act like those shoppers.  There's no need to lay on the horn and encourage them to run up with excitement leaving their calves.  They can come with just one or two blasts of the horn at a nice walk with their calves by their sides. 

   This is very important.  The mind of the cow should be concentrated on her calf first and all else second.  If she gets so excited that food or bawling or your truck are first in her mind, both she and her calf will suffer.  

Drive your feed truck in an "S" rather than a straight line (if you feed on the ground) so they don't get to following right behind the truck but will go across the "S".     

After feeding, get out and walk around in them for five minutes or so to get them all eating and into a proper mental state.  

You will find this will settle their minds and allow them to concentrate on their calves first and feeding second.    

 Livestock do not need to bawl.  This is not a normal behaviour.  This is a sign they are unhappy and they need something from you.  Go figure out what it is and then do it! 

Richard McConnell and Tina Williams (daughter of Bud Williams) consult and teach schools on Livestock Marketing and Proper Stockmanship across North America.  Reach them ahttp://www.handnhandlivestocksolutions.com or 417-327-6500.

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