Innovative Livestock Services, Inc.
Down Arrow
Tuesday, October 2 2018 7:00 AM
By Anne Burkholder

What's it like to care for large farm animals like cattle?

I have a one-year old yellow Labrador named Theodore. He’s my buddy and tends to follow me around wherever I go. By now he weighs in at about 80 pounds but, when I first got him, he was small enough to carry around. I knew that he was going to get big and strong, so I started training him when he was little so that it was easier for me to offer him guidance as his leader.

Many of us have pets that we care for in our lives. Most of them are smaller than we are, allowing us to easily offer them care and guidance. But, what happens on a farm when cowboys and cowgirls care for cattle that weigh more than 1000#? It takes a special level of understanding to be a good caregiver to an animal that weighs 10X as much as you do!

Although it was almost 25 years ago, I still vividly remember the first time that I walked amongst a group of large cattle. I felt as though I could get lost in that sea of hugeness. Frankly, it was disconcerting to be next to the 1300# giants when I topped the scale at 115# with my boots on! Over time, I have become used to the large beasts. I quickly learned that the better that I understood them, the more confident and effective I could be as their caregiver.

My cattle are NOT like my dog, Theodore. They aren’t my pets, and their brains are wired differently because they are prey animals. They are not mentally capable of thinking like me, so I need to be able to think like them. Last month, we talked about what is important to a calf’s physical fitness:

This month we delve into the mental side. How do we understand our animals in order to offer them optimal care? They are so much bigger and stronger than we are that caregivers must think of ways to inspire them to follow our guidance. Force doesn’t work. Not only does it create unnecessary stress for the animals, but it also creates a safety issue for the human caregiver.

We know that a healthy mental and emotional fitness level allows for physical well-being. We also know that cattle are gregarious creatures and best find comfort when they live in herds (groups) and have a trusted leader.

So, what is the secret to good animal handling in order to enable healthy mental and emotional fitness?


Good cattle caregivers internalize how to think like a calf which allows for clear communication and a low stress living environment for the animals. Care is optimized when cattle trust their human caregiver and view him/her as their leader. The resulting mental and emotional fitness can then combine with good physical fitness to optimize animal health.

We are all called to care for God’s creatures and our cowboys and cowgirls respond with dedication to that call. We take the time to do it right because it matters both in our lives and in the lives of our animals.


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Innovative Livestock Services, Inc.

Innovative Livestock Services

2006 Broadway Avenue
Great Bend, KS 67530

(620) 793-9200

4805 Vue du Lac
Manhattan, KS 66503

(785) 587-9700

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