The secrets to efficient stock handling

The secrets to efficient stock handling

CLEVER MOVE: Make them think it's their idea, says Tom Shepard on the subject of working cattle.

CLEVER MOVE: Make them think it's their idea, says Tom Shepard on the subject of working cattle.


Experienced stockman Tom Shepard talks animal instincts and why cattle and people are not much different.


WORKING with cattle, not against them, is the key to efficient handling, says experienced stockman Tom Shephard.

"Using their natural instincts - making what you're trying to achieve their idea - works far better than creating tension," he said.

"Just like dealing with people really."

In fact, Mr Shepard, who is considered one of the country's leading advisors on stock handling principles, says he doesn't see much difference at all between working cattle, dogs, horses or people.

"It's not really rocket science. You just have to know a bit about basic animal instincts and take account of the fact there are all different personalities in a mob," he said.

"Be dominant but know when and how to release pressure."

Mr Shephard ran a live demonstration of cattle handling techniques in an outdoor arena at the lot feeding sector's annual conference, Smart Beef, in Dalby last week.

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For 20 years, he managed large properties in the Northern Territory for Consolidated Pastoral Company before heading back to his North Queensland home two years ago to start a consultancy and training business, Efficient Stockhandling Solutions.

Today he works across the country conducting training days at cattle stations, feedlots, export depots and livestock handling facilities.

Feedlot managers at the Dalby event said working cattle the wrong way caused stress, which leads to everything from lower weight gains and susceptibility to disease to meat quality issues such as dark cutting.

While many had years of experience, they said Mr Shephard's demonstration had shown them things they didn't know.

Delivered with no airs and graces, the advice Mr Shepard had was straightforward, proven and clearly effective.

Good handling meant you weren't knocking around your stock, people or infrastructure, he said.

A key message was to rethink the 'get behind them and chase' method that seems to have been handed down the generations.

"Cattle should only ever be worked from behind as a very last resort," Mr Shephard said

"Working them from the front means any stirry ones remove themselves from the bunch and can be drafted off first."

It also means they can see you, which allows for the most influence.

"Focus on the eye as it's the quickest way to the mind," Mr Shephard said.

Other tips from Mr Shephard include the fact cattle always move in the direction they are facing, herd animals will want to follow other animals, cattle want to see what is pressuring them and cattle tend to bunch together when they feel under too much pressure.

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