Bud Williams’ less stressful way of sorting and loading livestock
This is the time of year that countless numbers of calves across the Prairies are being loaded onto trailers and hauled to auction marts. How easy is it to get your calves up that ramp and onto the trailer?
Bud Williams was one of the pioneers of low stress livestock handling. He promoted that the key to low stress handling is learning to “read” livestock, and changing your own position so that the animal goes where you want her to. One of his legacies is the “Bud Box” – a simple corral design that minimizes livestock and handler stress. It works on the concept that livestock want to go out the same way they came in. Instead of using a curved “crowding tub” type of design, a Bud Box is a small rectangular pen set up at the end of the alley, with a gate to the loading chute or squeeze right next to the entrance gate. When the animals enter the Bud Box they reach the dead end and naturally want to circle back to the way they entered. It is then up to the handler to position themselves close to the entrance to encourage the animals single file into the loading chute. This works on foot or on horseback.
The “Bud Box” is a simple, affordable design to move livestock quietly into a loading chute or squeeze. But the key to making it work properly is the handler - You! You must be in the right position to encourage animals to head up the chute, rather than just circle around the box.
Darrel and Peggy Walker run a cow calf operation near Borden, and have been practicing Bud Williams cattle handling techniques for more than a decade. A few years ago they traded their crowding tub for a Bud Box. They had seen one in action at a feedlot in Saskatoon and wanted to try it out on their operation. While they have made some changes to their original design, they like that it allows them to process animals quietly, and on horseback. Darrel says “it’s not just about a new loading chute – it’s about how we approach animals in the corral and pasture as well. We have been studying Bud William’s philosophy on cattle handling for 10 years or so and I feel like we are still just scratching the surface! It seems to be a person’s natural tendency is to get behind the herd and “push” the back animals, so it takes some time to adjust to the idea of getting in front of the cows and pressuring them to go by you”.
Going “low-stress” doesn’t have to involve big changes to your working corrals. Low-stress handling is simply about how you are asking animals to move, and how you use their flight zone.
Dr. Joe Stookey is a professor at the University of Saskatchewan who has spent much of his career studying livestock behaviour and temperament. He created a YouTube video to demonstrate how simple changes to your existing corrals can make a big difference on how easy it is to sort calves from their mothers. His video suggests that you simply remove the bottom two rails from a gate to a sorting pen alongside your alleyway. Calves travel down the alley with their mothers, and a person standing near the bottomless gate can encourage them to duck under the gate to the separate pen while the cows continue along the alley. It’s a very interesting video to watch, and shows how a very small crew can sort pairs very quickly and quietly! The video can be found by searching “Joseph Stookey” on YouTube. Proof that sorting calves doesn’t need to be stressful to your livestock or your help!
For more information on low-stress livestock handling, “Bud Box” design, or the upcoming handling workshop being taught by Tina Williams (Bud’s daughter) and her husband in Swift Current on December 8 to 10, please contact your local Regional Services Office.