If you grow livestock, it is almost inevitable that eventually some of them will get out of the place you keep them. This problem could result from a poorly latched gate or from an animal’s desire to see if the grass is really greener on the other side of that fence. Either way, at that point, you’re now in the wayward animal chasing business, so here’s some advise for getting them back where they belong.
- Always wear your boots: It is amazing the places animals will get themselves into when they’re out, and if you’re not wearing boots while you’re getting them back where they belong, you’re probably going to wish you had. As I mentioned in my “The farm uniform” post, a good pair of steel-toed boots are indispensable for farm work and doubly so when chasing animals.
- Always carry the right stick for the right job: There’s a reason herdsmen have carried sticks for thousands of years: they work. The most basic stick is a simple walking stick (I use mine often), but you can use a shepherds crook for smaller livestock or a poultry catcher for birds.
- Most animals will run the opposite direction you approach them from: This is an almost absolute rule. Granted, you have to approach the animal from some direction, but as much as possible, do so from opposite the direction you’re trying to get them to go. Most animals will also run for home when startled, so use that fact to your advantage.
- Fence lines are a good way to stop forward progress: Fences stop animals from running in a particular direction and can act as a “second person” when trying to round up an animal. Use your fences to your advantage.
- The more people you have the better: Granted, this is not always possible, but get as many people, equipped with boots and sticks, as possible to help round your animals up, especially if they are bigger animals like cattle. Consider calling neighbors if you need to.
- Stay a leg’s length away unless you want to get kicked: Unless you want to get kicked, stay away from the kicking bits, especially with larger animals.
- A caught animal will bite, kick, and flail to get away: If you have to catch smaller animals, be assured that it will fight back when caught.
Also, while animals getting out is almost inevitable, here are a few things you can do to make your roundup easier.
- Interact with your animals when they are calm: As you interact with your animals more, they will get used to your presence and will not be as flighty when you need to work with them when they are stressed. This interaction is especially important for large livestock that cannot be caught and manhandled.
- Consider a perimeter fence: One of the best ways to keep escaped animals contained is to limit how far they can run. Having a perimeter fence will help with that task.
- Also, walk your fences regularly: Animals will find the weak points in a fence and get through them. Walk your fences regularly to make sure they are in good repair.
- While you’re at it, use stronger fence: A lot of people use line fence because it’s cheap(er) than other kinds of fencing, but it’s not always the best option. If you have places where animals work the fence or keep getting through, consider other kinds of fence like cattle panel.
- Have enough gates: Escaped animals are rarely cooperative, so trying to herd them toward the one gate in your fence can be a difficult task. Consider having gates at each corner of a fence and in the middle for especially long runs.
Granted, these ideas won’t keep your animals from getting out, but they will help you get them back in once they are out. Good luck and happy herding.