Cows/Cattle/Cow Behavior


Karin wrote at 2013-04-05 02:55:26
I know this is a long time coming--five years in fact, but my answer to the question posted is this:

It always gets worse before it gets better. She reacts like that because she thinks you're going to do something bad to her, like cause her pain or something like that. A cow's way of moving back and forth on the lead is no different from what I've seen with steers running back and forth in the race or squeeze chute.  It's a typical reaction that cows have when they're in a panic and trying to escape.  When she's doing this, just stop where you are and let her calm down and see that you mean no harm. Talk to her quietly as you do so until you see her calm down.

She is eyeing you like that because she's much more scared than you are, and is still very tense, waiting to see what you are going to do so that she can gauge how she can react, with trying to run away, kicking out, or even charging as a last resort. She will whip her tail about (or "wag" her tail) if she's particularly upset, in pain or very anxious about her current situation. A high head also tells of an anxious, excited or flighty cow. A calm cow has her head level with her topline, her ears lax (not too perky) and a calm look in her eyes.  

But the thing is, YOU must be calm!!! You being nervous around her really sets the tone and makes her more nervous than you want her to be!!  You are fighting a losing battle if you remain fearful and nervous around her and expect her to be the calm, confident animal you dream her to be, because this is highly counter-productive.  You must be the leader, and a leader must be calm and assertive in order to get where you want to go with that cow.  Also, NEVER think to the future that she's going to kick or charge you, or hold on to the past of her acting out like that.  Live in the PRESENT, focus on her, control your feelings, don't think of anything except getting her to calm down and get one step closer to getting her calm and quiet on the lead and halter.

Be calm and assertive (BE THE LEADER!!), approach quietly, avoid eye contact, and don't approach until she calms down.  You MUST remain calm even throughout her tantrums, and trust that she will calm down and begin to trust you and calm down herself.  From there on, you can start training her to accept you milking her and lead her on a halter.  That's the only way you can go, mark my words.



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I can answer questions about training, such as but not limited to halter breaking, saddle, harness and trick training. Health, housing and some breeding issues. I will not answer health questions that would require me to examine the animal in person. These types of questions are best handled by your local vet.


Im the founder of the IRSA, I have trained cattle and bison for many years. I have written a book about training and have owned and shown many grand champion Longhorn cattle.


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