Why we don’t halter train calves

 

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I’ve been asked why I don’t halter train by folks, particularly when I have a calf for sale.
Here’s why:
I haven’t seen the need for it with my set up and my training.
My girls and boys come when called and follow my direction to move through gates or into buildings. I use voice, hand signals and the already trained herd to move cows and even bulls. I have not had that fail yet.
While I understand that some folks need this ability to tie off their cow for milking, that should not be the primary means of controlling a cow. A buyer can slip a halter on a heifer and train her later in her development for that.
The girls will come individually by name. I call them and they all look, the one that I have called comes and the rest of the herd generally returns to grazing, unless they think there is a treat involved. Ha ! If you name your cows and speak to them often, they know who they are. Even the bulls respond to their names.
All that simply stated, we recently bought the two Swiss girls from a farm that is big in show. The girls were exceptionally well handled and care for in prep as potential show cows, but spent their lives being confined to huge stalls and small pastures for their maintenance and safety as show heifers. All the cows there are kept in very structured environment. They were led by halter everywhere they went.
Due to that, they have no idea how to move or behave in a herd. They will not budge unless led. We had a hell of a time getting them off the trailer upon arrival. They just stood there looking at us like we had no clue what we were doing and waited for us to lead them. Pushing their rears didn’t budge them. Coaxing didn’t budge them. It was ridiculous.
They also have no idea what it means to be in a herd , but are slowly adapting. They did not follow the herd. They hung to themselves apart from the herd until we decided that separating them would be the best thing for them mentally and functionally.
They still walk tentatively as though they feel insecure without their halter and lead rope stabilizing them mentally. It’s what they are used to. They feel insecure without them.
Cows are creatures of habit. I don’t train mine to the halter because I do not want a herd of 36 cows I have to walk in one by one after retrieving them from pasture individually. These girls will still not budge from whence they stand without me pushing, cajoling, coaxing and insisting. It’s a mess.
I want to stick my head out the parlor door or the back door and holler ‘ C’mere Girls !’ and have them come. None of this current ‘ come get me ‘

You do not have to halter a calf to make a pet of them.  Most of my girls are pets and none have ever been haltered.  Time, attention, speaking to them as you pass, extending your hand as you walk toward them or by them, all of these acts will earn the trust of your calf or cow and eventually the ability to give them physical affection such as scratches and pats, even hugs with many.  I rather like to give my cows the choice to be pets, rather than forcing attention on them, I just offer it.

 

 

There is also no need for halters to train a cow, again–unless you need to tie her off for milking.  A cow that is raised according to her natural drives and instincts will follow her herd. Herd mentality is a powerful thing and should be used to your advantage when calling or moving cattle. A single family cow that was raised with her dam will mimic her dam’s behaviors even after she leaves her.  If her dam was with her long enough to instill behaviors such as responding to her keepers call or feed / milk times, she will not be nervous about such interactions and will just respond to the cues around her.

 

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