Tail Twisting


   I read recently about low-stress cattle handling and how flags and paddles have been adopted for working cattle. We see less use of battery charged prods and in general there’s less yelling at the cattle and at one another. The article said you might be embarrassed if you could see a video of how you worked cattle twenty years ago.
   We’ve all experienced cattle that stall when you’re trying to move them down a chute leadup to the headgate. This is aggravating when you’re in a hurry and nothing you do seems to get them to move. Most of the time you’ll resort to a hotshot or vigorous tail twisting or the dreaded blue heeler. The article said that patting or rubbing up and down the back might be the answer. They added that if tail-twisting was used you should twist the tail near the switch and release your hold as soon as the animal moves. I usually twist the tail a little higher than the switch. If those attempts are unsuccessful, use one brief touch with the electric prod.
   One other trick that probably helps but is not the most convenient to use is letting the cattle pass down the lead-up chute unmolested on their own a few times. This helps but you need to have the chute located between pastures and water or salt. You might even reward them at the other end with cubes or fresh, good quality hay.
   One innovation that has helped keep cattle moving down the alley or chute is the dual lead-up arrangement where they can move side-by-side until they reach the catch chute.
   Since most of you have or know someone who can video your cattle working activity, have it done sometime when you’re working several head. Then watch what you and your helpers do during the whole process from bringing them up from the pasture until they’re released from the headgate. You’ll see and learn a lot about what and how you’re doing things both right and wrong. ∆
   ELDON COLE: Extension Livestock Specialist, University of Missouri

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