Community Agriculture Alliance: Cattle on the road
June 1, 2017
If you are traveling along the roads of Routt County now through late fall — whether walking, riding, or driving — you may come upon cattle on the road. There are basically two reasons cattle will be on the road; either they are being moved by a rancher from one place to another or they have escaped. Cattle always think the grass is greener on the other side, and you often see them leaning against the fence with their head between the wires stretching for that especially nice clump for grass. Eventually, the wires stretch or break, or the posts lean or break, and the contained animal is free and along the road.
Let's start with the basics.
Cattle are prey animals, and, like all prey, will try to get away from perceived danger. When pressed, however, they will defend themselves. They butt with their heads, kick with their hind legs, bump with their bulk and try to run over things and trample with their hooves. t's amazing how quickly a lumbering cow can kick out with a hind leg or move forward, sideways or turn.
Bulls are the big guys with one thing on their minds — getting with the girls. They often circle, push and shove each other and are totally unaware of anything except defeating their opponent. Give them plenty of room.
Cows have different personalities and are protective of the calves. If you move slowly toward them, they will usually turn and walk away. If they raise their heads and stare at you, they are trying to determine if you are a predator. Stop and keep an eye on them, but avoid staring. They will consider it a challenge and may decide you are a predator and charge.
The medium-sized ones are yearlings, the teenagers of the cattle world. They look for reasons to spook and have a tendency to be contrary and do opposite of what is expected. Everything is new to calves, and they tend to be curious about things and may come at you rather than moving away. They may also jump at you and race away. If an animal becomes separated from the herd, stop, and they will most likely return to the herd.
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If you come upon a rancher moving cattle, do not honk to move the cattle along, the best thing to do is take a cue from the people moving the cattle. If you find a stray animal, don't yell or make loud noises, as they will stop and turn toward you to determine if you are a danger. Step closer to the animal from about a 45-degree angle so they can see you from the front or back and will move away from you.
Bottom line, the fastest and safest way to move cattle is slowly.
Joanne Stanko is a member of Routt County Cattlewomen.