Stress-free stockmanship underestimated dairy management

Stress-free stockmanship is the most underestimated skill in dairy management

7 years ago Jan Hulsen and I did an amazing training with Bud Williams, a beef farmer in the US. He’s probably the best stockman who I’ve ever met. He spend 25 years learning what cow behaviour is about and could truly read all the cow signals.

His approach was really cow minded. Not only did Bud Williams understand cows very well, he also translated that knowledge into some very practical techniques to handle cattle stress-free. Based on the cow’s nature, he could anticipate were a cow would move. He translated this into practical driving techniques and, one of my favourites, the Bud-box. The Bud box is a simple set up in which one person can bring cows to a trailer quietly and efficiently.

Using the stress-free stockmanship principles, I learned that I was in control and more efficient when handling cattle. I tested it on a lot of our show farms and it even works on my father’s sheep!

Farmer with stress free cows
Farmer with stress free cows

Stress-free stockmanship does not only make your job easier, there’s a lot more to gain. First of all, we see that cattle that is handled quietly, is a lot more predictable. Having tame, predictable cattle decreases the risk of accidents a lot. Also, we see a lot less lameness with stress-free stockmanship. Thirdly, cows that are stress-free produce more milk. This can be up to several liters per day, because of more resting and rumination time. Lastly, people that work with easy to handle cattle, have a lot more working pleasure.

Bud Williams told me “It took me 25 years to understand cows and then I took 50 years to spread the word. But nobody wants to listen”. Bud was 78 years old when we visited him and unfortunately he’s not with us anymore. Jan and I had always believed that there is a lot to learn about the docility of cows and the effect of human behaviour, but found a lack of information especially in the dairy industry. We’re very happy that we visited Bud just in time to have him inspire us and made it our goal to bring his knowledge to the dairy farmers as well. Stress-free stockmanship is probably the most underestimated skill in dairy management nowadays. It’s easy to learn and fun to do. It’s a very low investment with very high results. I think every farmer, farm worker and cow deserves it.

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