Stock used to regular handling like dairy cows will move quietly through a gate in their established social order without problems. If they do this regularly, they’ll sort out their social order before moving and avoid conflict in the gateway. Opening the gate and calling them is all that’s needed. The sound of the vehicle or the dog barking will do the trick too – reinforced by the fact that the feed has all be eaten out in the paddock they are in.
Problems can arise if stock are pressured during mustering and then rush through the wide-open gate. They may crash into the gate posts and damage their hips and ribs. They’ll also wreck the gate and the fences. If you see this is likely, then push into the mob with a positive action holding a stick out to break up the flow and force them to go through in a single file. Now this has its dangers if the cattle have not seen too many humans, and you may get bowled over in the rush.
If animals get out of their social order before going through the gate, this may result in some of them (often of lower rank) turning back and baulking the others coming through when faced by a dominant herd mate,.
The solution to avoid all these hazards is to give stock plenty of time and stand back if things are moving well.
With stock handled less frequently such as mobs of beef cows and calves, more time and patience are needed to make sure cows go through with their own calves if possible, and calves don’t panic and turn back if they lose sight of their mothers. At the end of the mob there are often a group of mis-mothered calves that are not used to being driven and they’ll inevitably turn back. It’s no good chasing them or hounding them with a dog – just wait till some cows come back through looking for them and try again.
Gates that do not fully open are a regular frustration as there’s always a calf that ends up behind the gate and may try to jump the fence or wreck the gate and get injured.
If the situation is a total disaster go away and leave the cows to come back and find their calves without human threat. Go back later to shut the gate.
This latter is certainly the best approach for wild stock that are very wary of humans like deer. Just open the gate and go back next day to close it. It will be very surprising if they have not discovered it and will all have “escaped” into the next paddock.
Animals do not like “novelty” (anything different) in their territory and will go up and inspect it with great vigilance. Test this by throwing your hat down in the paddock or drag a sack on a long rope through the gate and you’ll often find a group of very wary animals will follow it seeing it as a threat. It’s lot better than chasing them around.
Moving a few animals from a larger mob through a gateway
The best advice here is to have at least one experienced helper. Get a long stick to use as an extension of your arm for drafting, and tie all dogs up out of the way and command them to “shut up”. There are a few options:
Hold the stock in the corner and draft off the ones you do NOT want letting them back behind you into the paddock. Generally they’ll stay away once you get a few drafted off.
In the initial stages some you have drafted off may want to come back to join the mob you are working with, so you need eyes in the back of your head! Once you have the selected ones held in the corner, open the gate and let them through watching that the ones left in the paddock don’t charge to join them when they see the gate open.
If you can find two other helpers, ask one to drive the mob slowly up to the gate with the second person using a drafting stick to cut off the beasts to be drafted. The third person stays on the gate to cut off the selected animals.
This can be a dangerous business as you can easily be hit by the gate being pushed by a heavy beast. The gate needs to swing easily so needs to be light enough to push quickly. But it must also be strong enough to take the knock from a beast travelling at speed. Never attempt this if stock are not used to people – take them to some yards to do the job.
There is often a need to draft a single bull (or a pair) from a herd of cows and if this can be done in the paddock it saves taking the whole herd back to the yards. The bull may separate out alright from the cows and draft off easily through the gate, but he will certainly not like the idea when he realises what’s happened, and will want to get back with the cows – so beware. Once he is out of the mob, keep him on the run and don’t let him turn round and realise that he’s been fooled or he’ll come back in a hurry and you won’t be able to turn him.
If you have any problems in the paddock or things turn to a disaster with the risk of injury to stock or people – go away and leave things. Then go back later and take the stock to a safe yard for handling.