October 3, 2020 – Learning Normal Cattle Behavior Patterns

I’d like to start discussing vet topics for anyone who is interested in learning more about cows or pursuing a career in the veterinary field.

Traditionally cattlemen grew up with cow herds in their backyard. These days, we see more “city” people who decide they want to have a farm. They get cows but don’t have that innate knowledge of growing up around them.

The first thing that is important to know is their natural instincts. Cattle feel safe in a herd environment. They don’t do well alone. Being alone causes anxiety and will increase the chance of becoming sick, or worsen a current illness.

Cows are ruminants. We will discuss digestion and nutrition later. But for now we need to understand what ruminants do in general. Other ruminants include deer, goats, sheep, llamas, and such creatures.

All ruminants are herbivores (only eat grass/forage). This means they are prey species. They are always on the lookout for something trying to eat them. Lions, tigers, bears, coyotes, and even a pack of dogs will kill and eat grazing species.

What does that mean for behavior? It means that they have a big flight response. Their first instinct is to get away. However, when penned up against a wall or in a corner, they will fight. Cattle will charge you. And 1,000 pounds vs 200 lbs is a losing proposition every single time.

You need to understand flight zones, how cattle move, and where you need to be. I am posting an article by Dr Temple Grandin about cattle movements and behaviors. Please read it and process it.

It takes time, patience, and practice to learn and understand cattle flight zones. Begin slowly by walking around cattle and watching closely for their responses. When do they turn? When do the watch you? When do they run away? One small movement can change an entire course.

Next blog we will cover vision and how it affects all aspects of handling cattle.

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