angle-left Cattle Handling Techniques for Ropers

Cattle Handling Techniques for Ropers

Avoid burnout in roping steers with these cattle management methods.

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By Julie Mankin with Tara Matsler for Performance Horse Journal

When you’re looking for ways to keep your practice steers working for you, a key is to utilize low-stress cattle handling techniques. In particular, use chutes, advises cattle behavior expert Temple Grandin, Ph.D. Chutes are Temple’s tried-and-true approach to cattle handling.

She suggests pneumatic or hydraulic control valves to eliminate sudden slamming noises. Keep in mind, though, that studies have confirmed that cattle have ears that are more sensitive to higher frequencies than human ears, so a high-pitched whine from a hydraulic line can be more agitating to steers than the low-pitched rumble of manual gears.

There are a few upgrade options you can do to quiet your chutes:

  • Equip your hydraulic air exhaust with a silencer, or pipe it further away.
  • Old-fashioned metal chutes? Silence the clanging and banging with rubber pads and use plastic guides on moving parts.

Temple also suggests moving cattle without prods whenever possible. Plus, keep in mind that cattle have a basic behavioral tendency to move from a darker area toward a more brightly illuminated area. For that reason, they may balk at moving into an area of high-contrast lighting. Removing reflections, air drafts and people up ahead can all help reduce the need for prods when moving cattle.

Here are some other key principles she recommends for keeping cattle calm, stress-free and moving:

  • Use lead-up chutes with solid sides that prevent them from seeing people.
  • Provide cattle a view of an escape pathway up ahead, which leads them forward.
  • Provide non-slip flooring in your lead-up pathways.
  • Use gates that open and close with slow, steady motions versus sudden or jerky ones.
  • Allow cattle to see other animals within touching distance at all times.
  • Minimize noise, especially high-pitched noise.

Regardless of how serious you are about your roping pursuits, when you practice with better roping steers, the better your skills will become – and the more highly trained your horses will become.