I can’t tell you how many shots I had to trash, just to get this one. And it’s rough! Lately – it is a fight to take photos of Aon. He won’t stand still – comes to me wherever I try standing to get a shot! Seems to have become more intense since being separated from his Mom.
But Dwayne helped me get a lead-rope on him this morning. That’s not been such an easy feat with Aon. It’s required running him into a barn stall and pinning him against the wall with a remnant of plywood. And we’ve noticed something good about this. Everything we’ve done to him while using this method has pertained to his Control Halter – making adjustments; Or like this morning – clasping the lead-rope to his halter. It’s never caused him any pain. So basically – he just submits.
Putting the lead-rope on him gave me some back-up. He stops when he steps on the lead-rope. They usually do. As usual for me – I partake of the big rule – “Seize the moment!”
There are many little issues that the lead-rope training is going to help – where every calf is concerned. In Aon’s case – He’s now going to learn how to “walk with Granny” on a lead-rope – rather than follow behind or beside while Seamus is “walking with Granny” on the lead-rope.
“Granny?” That’s me. I decipher with the babies from the day they’re born. They learn to recognize who is who – right away. Their Dam – ‘Mama.’ Dwayne – ‘Paw-Paw.’ Artist (their Sire) – ‘Daddy.’ Me -‘Granny.’
Both of these calves were born this past spring. Aon was born on May 15th. Seamus was born on June 6th. Already – I only need to say – “Go see Paw-Paw.” They take off to find Dwayne – no matter where they’re standing – or – where he may be standing.
This can pay off down the road – HUGE – when you are communicating with a 1000 lb. Bull. It works like a charm for us with Artist! (I know. He’s so vain.)
The lead-rope is being left clasped to Aon’s Control Halter. Of course – we use old ropes for the training. The ropes take some pretty rough trips through some – pretty rough stuff – at times.
It would be very easy for Aon to learn he has the upper-hand with being able to kick me stupid – if I didn’t take the time to keep him pre-occupied with other positive training – first. And above all else – each little accomplishment is met with a cookie.
You can teach them to do just about anything for a cookie! But first – you need to spend time conning them into becoming familiar with the cookies. The goal is to turn ‘em into Cookie Addicts.
From there – I choose my battles with the cookies. They become my weapons. If I want a really well-behaved bull or cow – I train them to understand that they get a cookie for doing good things I want them to do. I also train them to understand “bad cows/bulls don’t get cookies. Only good cows/bulls get cookies!”
When a Bull has busted your fencing – it’s just not a day that he should be receiving one single cookie. Period. And he should be made very aware of that fact. “If Mama ain’t happy – ain’t nobody happy.”
For the time being – Aon can’t be trusted enough to stand beside him with my back facing his rear quarters. I stand with my right shoulder at the 2 on the clock – left shoulder at the 7. Eyes are always keeping the whole scene in check.
All it took was a single moment of catching his Mom kicking out when she wasn’t getting her way with me. He was only a week or so in age. And April became The Devil’s Daughter as soon as she dropped this first calf of hers. We’ve gone through a lot of work with her since. But that’s a whole different story!
The problem was – Aon’s Mom has always thrown her hissy fits in life. She kicks at and out. Anytime she’s ever touched me with her hoof – it’s been very light. Her kick is just a message to let me know she’s not happy. She’s never wanted to do damage to me. Well – sans the first 2 months of Aon’s life – anyway. But a brand new baby cannot comprehend messages.
Aon saw the action. He took it at face value. And every child wants to be the best – at anything they do – to please their parents. Right?! Yeah. Well. The little fart almost took out my knee-cap inside the stall one morning! I was afraid he was coming back for more before I could make it to the other side of that stall door. And getting out of there seemed to take – forever. My poor knee was sent on a visit to Hell! And it was sending painfully vivid artwork to my brain!
I don’t want Aon kicking me when he doesn’t want to walk beside me. I want him looking forward to getting a cookie when he does walk beside me.
Ever see photos or video of the kids in the most serious tug-o-war with a calf that won’t budge? Ever see adults in that same scenario – dragging the poor thing – because it won’t walk on its own?
That’s a “No-No-No-NO!” Just the wrong thing to do.
That’s the same thing I tell all our calves when they’re doing anything wrong – shaking my finger side to side in front of their face – and shaking my head at the same time. Imagine trying to drag a 1000 lb. Bull like that. Yeeaaaah…. You can forget about that. Ain’t gonna happen.
Aon is only a steer calf. But the days will come when we need to lead him into a trailer to head to the butcher. We need to be able to get him into a chute for various treatments. From time to time – he will need to be led to a different area – without the rest of the herd – for some reason. You just never know what may come up – that can make you feel so grateful for putting in the time for training.
Seamus shares the same paddock with Aon. And he’s a Bull Calf. He needs fairness in his yard. Both boys get the same treatment if I want this Bull Calf to remain well-mannered.
One of our ADCA members gave me a very valuable tool – which has cut out a whole lot of the long path that I went through with Artist.
As soon as I can get a combination lead-rope around their heads after they’re born – I begin training with some other techniques for getting them used to being around me. (I had to use combos for lambs on Seamus!) But the heavy time spent on training comes at weaning. We choose to wean our babies at 3 months of age – or shortly after.
Once they have the lead-rope on and they’re out in the paddock – I take hold of the lead rope. Right hand holds the clasp of the lead-rope. I always tie 2 knots in the rope – first one about 2 feet from the clasp – second one about 2 feet from the first knot. Left hand sits at the first knot closest to the clasp – while holding the excess rope.
I begin by pulling just enough until the rope is tight. I WAIT – without saying a word – for that calf to take one step forward. As soon as that calf takes that single step forward – I RELEASE the tightness in the rope – and praise the calf. When the calf becomes willing to take more than one step – I let it happen! As soon as the calf digs his hooves in and balks – I tighten the rope just enough – wait – quietly.
I Release the tightness as soon as the first step forward comes – allowing the calf to take as many step as they’re willing. And at that point there – I praise them when I see that the light has come on – through their eyes – their ears – and their muscle action. Their eyes will look at you – ears will perk forward – muscle will relax but roll right into stepping. It’s as if they’re a little kid saying “You want me to do it like this?” Once the calf takes the initiative to take more than one step – we go through several more rounds of that good fortune.
And then we move the training up a notch. I do NOT praise them if they stop when I want them to continue walking. I say ‘no‘ – tighten up on the rope. And then I wait for cooperation.
Eventually – I work my way up to getting them to walk from one corner of the paddock to another. Once they make it to the other corner – I train them to stop with one of the buzz words I use. “Whoah.” When they begin to stop at that corner after I’ve used that word – I praise the calf and give them a cookie. They gain understanding that they’ll get a cookie if they go to the corners. From there – I gradually work them up to making a full round before praising them and giving them a cookie.
There are so many times when I find myself out in the middle of a paddock – needing a cow to come with me to a different area for some reason. And I don’t have a lead-rope. That’s where the advantage has kicked in for us – from choosing to have all our cattle wear Thomas’ Control Halters. They are custom-designed and sized for Irish Dexter Cattle. And they are so worth the investment. With the training each of them have had as babies – here at our place – we only need to hold on to the ring for clasping the lead-rope. They walk anywhere with us!
*** Let me be clear about the training I describe on this blog:
We raise Irish Dexter Cattle. They are nowhere near the size of standard breeds of cattle. While they do possess an equal amount of strength as standard breeds – they are extremely DOCILE – compared to other breeds of cattle. This breed also possesses a high rate of memory retention. While some of these methods may work for standard cattle – others may not.
Always make sure you do your research about your chosen breed!