Why train cattle?
What’s the big deal? Why would anyone want to train a cow?
Cattle are actually very easy to train. Extremely food-oriented, they are willing to do almost anything to earn a treat. Big, docile, and easy-going, most cattle just want to get along and enjoy the time spent together playing games. Although they may enjoy jumping around and playing, all that enthusiasm can be controlled and put towards games that we DO want to play with them.
When well cared for, cattle learn easily and are happy to work with us. They can learn many tricks, almost anything you can think of. Among these tricks can be very useful tricks like standing to be milked, leading, assuming a show pose, or loading in the trailer.
Teaching our cattle skills for easy handling can make both humans and animals lives better.
What do I need to know to start training my cattle?
Cattle have the same basic needs as a horse. This can make them easier for someone from a horse background to transition. It can still be intimidating switching to a new species. If you haven’t had large animals before, it can seem a bit overwhelming. There are a few basic things to know that can make cattle choice and handling easier.
Choosing the right animal is an important starting point.
Although any breed of cattle can be good for training, cows and steers are the best to work with. Bulls can be dangerous even if they don’t mean to be because of hormones.
When looking at breeds, almost every size and color are available. There are smaller cattle, such as Dexters, Scottish Highlanders, low line Angus, or Belted Galloway. There are even miniature versions of many breeds such as Holsteins, Jerseys, Herefords, and Texas Longhorns. To qualify as a miniature, cattle must be 42″ or less at maturity!
If a larger animal is better suited for you, steers will always be bigger. The lack of hormones brought about by castration will cause them to keep growing their entire lives, and they can get huge.
Cows have the added benefits of producing calves and milk, but these are also drawbacks that will require time off from work and hormonal changes.
Some cattle breeds come in rich and varied colors. Longhorns, Brahmas, and most dairy breeds are among the options that come in bright colors with spots, roaning, and brindling.
Once we have decided on the right cattle to work, we need to look at how to work with them.
Cattle can eat most treats that horses can. Corn, carrots, alfalfa pellets, or a handful of their regular feed are all options. Scratches also work well for training. Cattle have many itchy spots that they love to have a person to help them reach.
There is specially made tack just for cattle. Most horse tack will work though. Horse halters will generally fit a cow. For bigger animals removing the throatlatch can help. You can buy cattle halters that make the fit easier or order specially made cattle halters to fit your color preferences and design choices.
Saddle fit is as important to bovine backs as it is for horses. Beef breeds of cattle will need a very wide tree, whereas dairy breeds often take a narrower saddle. Each animal is an individual in shape and size, and saddle needs will vary greatly. As steers get huge, they will need draft-sized cinches. Smaller cattle will take average-sized tack.
Cattle need plenty of room to live, nice pastures are always good, but a small turnout will work. The most important thing is that they have at least one friend to live with. When cattle don’t have companionship, they will be lonely and start to exercise their play drive on their human. This can get dangerous when a large animal wants to jump around and headbutt!
There are plenty of options to choose from when choosing cattle, tack, and training options. That only adds to the fun!
Start training your cow (or steer) today! Download your Trick Training Guide HERE.