Patience is a virtue that I want right now

Billy Whitehurst's son tests the electric fence

I was told as a kid never to pray for patience, because if you get it, you will surely have opportunity to use it.

When last I wrote about some traits indicating the transition from cowboy to cowman, patience was omitted, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Patience seems to accumulate with age, wisdom and opportunities to practice it. Yesterday morning as I was trailing some pairs with young calves from one pasture to the next, I remembered my old college professor Ray Ansotequi making the statement that “patience is a virtue we all want right now.”

Any of you who have trailed young calves know that you have to prepare to move at “calf speed,” not your speed, and that you probably won’t get from point A to point B in a straight line. I sat there for about 20 minutes, riding a constant quarter circle behind the young calves who were only 2 feet from the gate while their mothers stood just on the other side trying to call them through.

The calves were curiously investigating the gate posts, the rocks and who knows what else. I found myself laughing at the number of times I have been in that situation and remembering my younger years when the whip and dogs would have been employed about 19 minutes ago. When dealing with or training anything young, be it cattle, kids (human and goat), dogs or horses, it takes patience and time to train them.

Sure, we can whip and spur them through it and send hair and dust flying, but what do we really gain? If we don’t give livestock, particularly young livestock, the opportunity to learn what we are asking of them, we will end up whipping and spurring our way through it every time. Inevitably this takes longer each time we try because the last time we tried it, the animals had a bad experience and want to get away.

Think about this: It may have taken time to teach your kids to tie their shoes, but once they learned it, you never had to tie their shoes again. The same principle applies to training livestock. Take the time and have the patience to set the stage for them to learn what you are asking them to do. Trust me, in the long run you will be time, blood pressure medication and energy ahead.

Some simple ways to do this might include the following:

Before processing young cattle (or newly purchased cattle), let them flow through your pens slowly and find the gates, the chute entrance, etc., without catching them. This gives them the chance to actually learn the system, instead of being forced through it and wondering “What the heck just happened?” when they come out the other side.

Don’t plan to do anything after trailing or processing cattle at a set time. Once you put a time limit on how quickly the cattle work should be done, you are sure to need more patience than you possess.

Lastly, remember that we only get one time around on this earth. Let’s take the time to enjoy what we are doing while we’re here. Yesterday is history; tomorrow is a mystery; today is a gift. That’s why they call it the present.  end mark

Billy Whitehurst has spent several years as a working cowboy, rancher, land and livestock consultant, BQA trainer and university extension educator in Tennessee, North Carolina, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. He currently resides near Cardwell, Montana. Email Billy Whitehurst.

PHOTO: If I hadn’t taken the time to teach my son (Levi, 9) how to look for shorts and test the electric fence, I would have to do it. A little initial time investment pays great dividends in the end. Photo provided by Billy Whitehurst.

Written by Billy Whitehurst Published on 02 Jul 2015

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