Corralling Livestock in Pastures and Pens

Learn new tips and tricks to understand basic herd instincts and flight zones.

| February 2018

Temple Grandin’s Guide to Working with Farm Animals (Storey Publishing, 2017), by Temple Grandin, introduces new ways to handle livestock. Grandin provides tips and tricks for the handler to use in order to better approach livestock in pastures and pens. You will also find livestock moving techniques as well as building ideas and layouts for pens and pastures. The following excerpt is from Chapter 3, “Working in Pastures in Pens.”

Animal behavior on range land, in pastures, and in corrals is governed both by instinct and by learned responses to surroundings. Regardless of their genetic makeup, all species of grazing animals are born with natural behavior patterns. Over the eons, these patterns developed in wild and domestic herds as strategies to avoid predators. For example, they will graze in bunches that make it harder for a predator to single out and target an individual for its next meal. Or they will all turn to face a predator, real or perceived, that is outside of their flight zone in any direction. Early naturalists referred to these hardwired predator-avoidance behaviors as instincts; modern animal behaviorists call them fixed action patterns. Skilled, quiet handlers can make use of these innate behaviors to gather and move livestock successfully. When low-stress gathering and herding methods are first used on animals that are not accustomed to people, they trigger a progression of behavior patterns. These begin as purely reactive and instinctual and ultimately become based on animal learning and trust.


• Natural behavior patterns that are innate in all grazing animals enable them to avoid predators.

• Stock handlers must understand the principles of the flight zone and the point of balance.

• When cattle are moving where you want them to go, back off and relieve your pressure.

• When animals in a group are moved through a pasture gate, they should walk past the stock person in a calm, controlled manner.

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