I couldn't agree with you more, Bill. We had some FFA boys over one day to halter break a heifer we had donated to our local FFA members. They had never before done anything but the old "put the lead rope over your shoulder and drag the calf and if that doesn't work, tie it to the tractor or pickup and drag the calf."
I told them they had to do it my way, so they agreed. Within 30 minutes, they were able to lead that heifer, and she was a 700# weanling that had never been handled before. This heifer had literally dragged them out of the corral when they first approached her, but was calmly led back to her corral an hour later, after being brushed and hand fed.
I totally disagree with tying the calf up for several days. If that's what it takes to halter break your calf, you don't have the patience needed to do the job. Or, you've picked a calf that is lacking genetics for docility. If the genetics are lacking, get another calf, or look for a more docile breed next time around. Learn from the experience.
Cows have very long memories. A calf that is badly handled is going to remember that treatment and is going to be harder to re-train. I say re-train because bad treatment is the first training it received.
The basics - use two LONG lead ropes the first time or two, with one person on each one. One to teach the calf to lead, and one person for insurance so the calf can't get away. Cross tie the calf and brush her with a soft, long handled dairy type brush. Offer her grain in your hand, if you can. When leading, tug on the lead rope and verbally encourage her to move forward. At the FIRST SIGN of forward movement, INSTANTLY release the pressure on the lead rope as a reward. Without the reward, anything else you do is useless.
Even one step qualifies as forward movement. Praise the calf. Place shallow feed pans about 30 feet apart and put a scant handful of grain in each feed pan - just a taste. Praise the calf. Slowly work the calf to the first feed pan and give it time to discover and eat the food. Praise the calf. Work the calf to the second feed pan and give it time to discover and eat the food. Praise the calf. By the third or fourth feed pan, the calf will move forward without hesitation. As training progresses, move the feed pans further apart and eventually you don't have to put grain in every one, or even use the feed pans. If the calf gets rambunctious, wrap the lead rope under your butt and hang on, letting the calf run in a circle. Start over again.
I've written out my method of halter breaking a calf. If you want a copy, email <A HREF="mailto:[email protected]
</A> (remove the words nospam) and I'll email you a copy.
> Ok...so much for the dragging a
> calf around with a tractor or
> draft horse. There is a
> longstanding "Learning"
> principle that has been proven
> time and time again with all
> animal subjects, including humans.
> That principle states that:
> "An organism (animal) tends
> to repeat those behaviors that it
> perceives as reinforcing." In
> lay terms: "Give me a good
> reason to do something!"
> People are "trained"
> with tangible and intangible
> rewards--both at home and at work.
> What we are attempting to do with
> "animal" behavior is to
> creat a situation in which the
> animal "wants" to do
> something (or to please us).
> Coercion, force, punishment, and
> all can frequently be met with
> resistance (Re: Newton's 2nd Law
> of motion--for each action there
> is an equal and opposite
> Others have used (as we have also)
> Positive Reinforcement to train
> and motivate our cattle and
> horses. There is a
> "secret" that is called
> "FOOD". The 4-legged
> critters are highly motivated with
> food--especially special treats.
> When an animal is a little hungry,
> you can present cubes, small bit
> of alfalfa hay, or other treat and
> the animal will come to you and
> let you hand feed it. When an
> animal is eating their
> "ration" then you can
> usually touch, groom, and/or
> halter them (unless they are truly
> I totally disagree with the
> aversive "conditioning"
> methods (i.e., tying up till you
> break their spirit, hot-shock
> sticks, and the like). You want
> the animal to WANT TO do the thing
> or behavior on his/her own; and,
> to please you as the Alpha animal.
> Start "training" soon
> after calving or foaling. Get them
> used to you, your voice, being
> touched all over, being hand-fed,
> and all. These animals are a heck
> of a lot smarter than some will
> admit and they can be effectively
> trained with positive
> Enuf said. Bill, retired
> behavioral psychologist and
> present breeder/raiser of
> registered gaited horses and
> longhorn cattle.