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.

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