Banishing bad attitudes
“No! Don’t want to!”
My toddler has started to use that phrase…frequently and with seemingly greater conviction each time.
People will joke, “Wonder who she gets that from?” Right now I’d say we can blame it on being 2 years old, but there is a hint of truth in that question. We know disposition, in kids and cattle, is both heritable and shaped by environment…so I might have to shoulder a little bit of that blame.
If you bring up bad behavior (and methods for correcting it) in a mom’s group, the discussion can get heated. Parents and experts have passionately held opinions and they’re widely varied.
However, suggest that same topic on cattle production-related Facebook pages or e-mail groups (as we did earlier this month) and you get a pretty unified answer.
I grabbed some clever quotes from our virtual friends that I thought might leave you chuckling or nodding your head at in agreement:
- “We cull using the three O’s: OPEN, OLD or ORNERY. The OLD is not actually age related, just problems that come along with time.” Bill Emmons, Vermont
- “Temperament is very important to my customers and my family. Life is too short to deal with unruly cattle!” –Monte Bordner
- “There are two kinds of wild cattle: those that run toward you, which result in hospital bills or funeral arrangements. The other type are the ones that run away from you, which result in fence repairs and lost income. I cannot afford either type of wild cattle.” — Harry E. Fisher, Aledo, Ill.
- “All cows that are nervous or high-headed go to the sale barn – regardless of age or pregnancy level. I have been surprised that I have had some cows that are fine for 3 to 6 years and then suddenly turn bad. I don’t know why. We do have a large number of mountain lions and perhaps a traumatic experience might cause this change in behavior?” –Chuck Backus, Arizona
- “When an animal has a disposition problem, do we ask ourselves why? Cow behavior (phenotype) is influenced by heredity (genotype). Hair whorl studies linking hair patterns on the cow’s face with behavior focus on this. But the other factor is environment. That in a large way is us, and how does the animal react to the environment we put it in?” –Steve Lucas, Louisa, Va.
- “There are infinite reasons why nervous cattle cost the producer more—less gain per unit of feed, nervousness is infectious so one bad attitude can cause a whole group to be flighty, destructive, more difficult to manage and more dangerous for those feeding, handling, calving. We give one-way tickets to town to cattle that don’t like us. Life and productivity get better.” –Phil Howell
We’re glad to hear producers have pretty strict standards in this department. Not only is it better for safety and morale (perhaps fewer cuss words uttered during sorting?), but studies show that calmer cattle grade and gain better, too.
One of our Black Ink Basics Tech Sheets spells out a $57.69/head grid advantage for docile cattle compared to nervous counterparts. That’s in part due to the fact that they had double the number of Certified Angus Beef qualifiers.
To read more about that research, read “Disposition drives feedlot, carcass performance.”
And here’s to a few more calm critters out in the country!
May your bottom line be filled with black ink,