? for Haggis

Discussion in 'Cattle' started by Pigeon Lady, Nov 12, 2006.

  1. Pigeon Lady

    Pigeon Lady Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Haggis,

    You mentioned in another thread that you have a little 8 mo old ox in training. I'm going to be getting a 7 mo old next week. This will be my first venture into training oxen.

    Would you mind posting about your training methods and the progress you're making with your little guy?

    I have Drew Conroy's book ( a teamster's guide) and the NH 4H working steer manual but it's always nice to have someone to compare notes with and ask questions of. My guy's tame but isn't halter broke yet so I'm sure we're way behind you.

    He's a Texas Longhorn. I know, not the usual breed for ox training but I always wanted one and it just happens that one of our neighbors has these and called to see if we were interested in him. I met his 'parents' and they're extremely docile. Like big old dogs! He seems to have inherited the same disposition.

    Can't wait to start working with him. His name's Moonshine.

    Any advice is much appreciated!

    Thanks,

    Pauline
     
  2. Haggis

    Haggis MacCurmudgeon

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    I won't mind answering any questions, though I'm quite sure there are more knowledgeable ox people on this board.

    Halter training is easy; just keep the calf tied until it learns it can be dominated. (I keep my calf tied always.)

    Leading is an off-shoot of halter training; once the calf learns it can't resist it will quit trying, there will be days early on when the calf will muck about, but for the most part once they learn they're good to go.

    At 7 months old your steer will have learned from other cattle: he understands "lead" cow, and he understands "boss" cow, it is the teamsters goal to become lead cow and boss cow, and to never let the steer forget it. This is quite simply done in tying the calf, watering and feeding the calf, and touching the calf. Once he knows you can do whatever you want and he can do nothing the "handy steer" type training can begin.

    The calf will learn quickly. The little fellow who came to live with us yesterday had never been halter trained and I had him following me like a puppy in just a few minutes; well, I tied him up for a couple of hours to fight the halter while I wasn't there, and then, later, when I lead him to water he just tagged along on the lead.
     

  3. Pigeon Lady

    Pigeon Lady Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Well, I learned something already! Thanks Haggis! I thought the halter training was going to be one of the hardest parts.

    Do you keep yours in the barn all the time? We are fencing a small corral with a shelter but we can partition off an even smaller area to keep him in until he's learned the basics.

    Pauline
     
  4. Haggis

    Haggis MacCurmudgeon

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    Once they are completely broken they can be allowed to roam at large in a paddock, but until then I keep mine calves tied, short; I give them just enough chain to eat and lay down. I want them to learn that I can walk right up to them any time I want and that they cannot get away/resist.

    I water my little calves twice a day but by 6 or 7 months old they are really only thirsty once a day. This is when they learn to lead. They know they want water, they know where we're going, and they know the boss cow, me, is in charge of when we drink; I get to say how fast we travel to and from the water; and along the way we can practice "step-up" and "whoa". I have a wee stick about 18" long for tapping the boss between the ears or tapping the rump. Once they are larger I have a lightweight buggy whip, it's longer and makes a horrible noise when cracked in the air about the rump, or head and ears.

    Cattle are all about the threat, actual fighting gets them hurt, so they will feign an attack long before they will actually touch each other; take a few hours, days, months and sit and watch your older cattle, they have a wonderful language and any would-be drover can learn it. The calves will quickly learn to respond to a threat. Very quickly they will stop, when the goad is held in front of the muzzle, back, when the goad is held near the kees, or step-up, when the goad is held near the butt of the tail. Touching teaches them to move before they are touched, if they get stubburn a touch will move them along; watch your herd, cattle don't really like being touched unless it is a bonding type moment.
     
  5. Pigeon Lady

    Pigeon Lady Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Haggis, you should write a manual! I've learned more from your two posts than the book I've had my nose in for hours!

    Unfortunately, I don't have a place in the barn for the calf to be tied all the time. The one stall that's free is very drafty. I don't want him standing in a draft so I'm going to have to compromise somewhere. I could keep him tied in his corral during the day, withhold his water and use that as a training aid as you suggest. Only feed him while he's tied. He's going to get lots of handling so hopefully he'll be broken quickly. He won't have a huge area to roam until then.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to explain things. I have a much clearer vision of how to begin his training now.

    I'll post updates on his progress.

    Pauline
     
  6. Haggis

    Haggis MacCurmudgeon

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    I don't necessarily "withhold" water, but rather I use their natural need to drink only once or twice a day when young or once every couple of days when they're older to my advantage. Some very experienced drovers talk of their old bullocks drinking only every other day, even when given free access to the water tank. I notice that my Jersey milk cows/heifers will seldom drink more than once a day, even when in milk; in training up a calf it is a real bonus to have them willing and ready to follow on a lead to the water tank, and later they will follow anywhere, out of habit.

    My little Holstein/Jersey cross I received as a gift a couple of days past is already tagging along as if he had always been my shadow. He is skiddish when I take hold of his halter, but follows easily once we're going; another few days and he'll be good as gold. Of course, Holsteins or holstein crosses, are easier to train than some other breeds (Jerseys, Milking Devons, Longhorns), but even these more difficult breeds are subject to innate "herd" responses. The little calf has already learned that I am his new lead cow: I bring hay, I bring grain, I lead him to water, and I give him bonding rubs about the head and ears, from a calf's point of view, there is nothing else. Over the next few days, as he realizes he cannot resist me, and that I can dominate him, I will become his boss cow.

    "Dominate" from a bovine's perspective is nothing more than being higher in seniority; I can do whatever I want and he must do as I wish. If he doesn't do as I wish, we repeat the exercise until he does comply. Eventually, he will just comply without a struggle. Hitting or hurting will just make a calf afraid; afraid of me, and afraid of the exercise. When they are much much older and working a good whack might be needed to get their attention, but by then a wee goad, buggy whip, or switch isn't going to hurt them so much as annoy them, like a fly bite.
     
  7. moopups

    moopups In Remembrance

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    How different cattle care is between areas, here in Central Florida cattle must have direct access to fresh water constantly, the idea of drinking every other day would not fly here. There would be carcases everywhere.
     
  8. Pigeon Lady

    Pigeon Lady Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Haggis, do you keep him tied in a halter or a neck collar?

    Do I need to buy something specifically made for a cow or will a horse halter work?

    P.
     
  9. jnap31

    jnap31 garden guy

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    Thanks haggis i am learning a lot, she is right you should write a book.
     
  10. Haggis

    Haggis MacCurmudgeon

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    I use a neck chain on my cows and my calves, with a simple D-ring to connect the ends of the chain. If/when I tie them, I use a double swivel at both ends of the chain, with a double swivel on the neck chain its self.

    The neck chain is passed through one end of a double swivel, and the snap connecting the restraint chain to the neck chain swivel is a double swivel, AND the end of the restraint chain has a double swivel where it is connected to something solid. I don't want any kinked chains. Herself says that if I could find it, I'd have a chain that was all swivels.

    Moonpups,
    My heifer in milk and my old cow both have free access to water, and as I top-off their tank once every day with a hose, I can tell just about how much water they have consumed. Some days the only water missing is what the calves drank when I led them to water. :shrug: When everything is frozen, except the watering tank, as it is now, I'm pretty sure of where they have to get their water. I can't imagine how different it must be in Florida, or perhaps southwestern Texas. Surely every crofter has to make their judgement calls based on their own areas and weather conditions. Then too, European breeds, such as Jerseys and Milking Devons, dont's sweat whereas, I understand, those stemming from Asia Minor do. Something of which I'm sure every one here is aware, so I mention it only in reference to having a bearing on the amount of water needed by cattle.
     
  11. Pigeon Lady

    Pigeon Lady Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Thanks Haggis.

    We finished fencing the paddock yesterday and now we're working on a small shed for him.

    We thought we would be getting him this week but the calf's owner called to let us know that he's unable to get his stock trailer to the site where the cows are.The recent rains have washed a section of his road out. So that's given us a bit more time to prepare.

    Will look for swivels!

    Pauline
     
  12. Pigeon Lady

    Pigeon Lady Well-Known Member Supporter

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  13. Haggis

    Haggis MacCurmudgeon

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    He's a fine looking fellow, but I fear he would be quickly lost in our winter snows!! Or perhaps he would turn blue from the cold as did another famous ox in folk history?
     
  14. jnap31

    jnap31 garden guy

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    I never new that, and i have done a lot of reading. It's early here and i have already learned something new for today.
     
  15. Pigeon Lady

    Pigeon Lady Well-Known Member Supporter

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    A quick update on our calf.

    The neighbor brought him over yesterday and we put him in the little paddock. He tested the fence and got zapped a few times. Ate some hay then thought 'what the heck...' went right through the electric fence ( two hot wires - and off up the mountain. To cut a long story short he made his way back to his herd about a half mile away up on the ridge above us!- after we spent 6 hours hiking around three mountains and all the hollows inbetween!

    Kind of glad he's white. He was easy to spot against all the brown leaves and in the thick laurel.

    We're going to do like you said and make a stall for him in the barn and keep him tied.

    I sure hope we haven't bitten off more than we can chew with this little fellow. He definately has his own ideas!

    At least we know he's safe and not lost in the woods as we'd feared.

    Wish us luck please.

    Pauline
     
  16. Haggis

    Haggis MacCurmudgeon

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    I do wish you luck and I'm pleased no harm came to the little guy.

    If it were me, I'd keep him halter tied in a stall until he completely understood being tied, afterwhich I'd use a neck strap to allow him greater freedom while tied. In time you will become his "herd" and he will want to be around you, or at least look to you for protection and his needs.

    Once he understands he can't escape he will stop fighting the halter and his training can move to the next level.

    These are powerful creatures and they can hurt you or hurt themselves trying to escape you; just be consistant in everything. Just as he can learn that you can dominate him, he'll learn you weaknesses. Safety first in all things, in regards to your steer, but also yourself.
     
  17. Pigeon Lady

    Pigeon Lady Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Thanks Haggis,

    Yes, that's the conclusion we've come to. Right now he and his sire and dam and another cow have free range of 53 acres of wooded mountian. So although he's used to his owner feeding him and petting him a little he's never known confinement at all. They're only fenced with 4 strands of barbed wire. I guess with all that space they don't have any desire to get out.

    We have lots of rough cut 1x12 boards from a couple of white pines we had felled. Tomorrow we'll start boarding the sides of a stall for him so that he won't be standing in a daft. That was my main concern. Our barn is about 100 years old and the drive through type. The doors are long gone. The wind blows right through the middle and the gaps between the siding boards.

    I was initially going to PM you with all these questions. Glad I started a thread instead. You're helping a lot of other people too!!!

    Pauline