Generalized info on how we treat our Longhorns

Longhorns do respond to simple voice and simple hand commands and know their names.

It is important that who ever you use for veternarian services, etc., actually likes longhorns.. if they do not, then they will not do a good job for you.. or treat your girls/herd/bulls right.  Our experience with the commercial cattlemen world "usually" is not pleasant due to their unwarrented mis-perceptions about longhorns in general. But we also have found that the "Oldtimers" that have actually dealt with longhorns swear by them.

We talk to our longhorns just like we do our horses.. they have personalities, and learn easily.. if you don't want them to learn bad habits.. then don't let the situation happen in the first place.  They learn not only by experience.. but are able to learn by "monkey see monkey do". 

I did not have experience of any kind with cattle in 2001.  (I have animal experience dating back to childhood. horses, dog, cats, skunks, snakes, rats, rabbits, geese, ducks, birds, hedgehog) But found my horse experiences really helped me with the longhorns.  I have always treated my longhorns with respect.. and expect them to be respectful to me.  And yes, I talk to our longhorns just like I do with our horses/dogs/cats.


Like horses, longhorns have a "herd order"  as long as they respect you as the #1 leader they will comply.. but like young children... they will also try to push their "limits" esp. if they know they can get away with it..  they are able to size up a situation and use it to their advantage.  and they have long memories.. esp if they have a bad experience... they will never forget a bad experience.. but they can also learn new routines very easily.. 

(note: with time, involving several years, I have had a certain cow in our herd go from not allowing me to even "look" at her newborn calf without hard charging the fence at me.. to this year calmly eating hay from my hand with her latest newborn '11 calf at side.  It has taken 7 years for her to trust me but it is possible for a bad actor to change because I have seen her do it. Each year she showed improvement.  But it took 7 years to get to where she is now.  And all it will take is another bad experience at the wrong time to undo her progress of the last 7 years.)

Longhorns like horses, love routines.. but are also very curious.. it is this curious nature that gets them into trouble..   they would rather explore than eat seems like...  We have seen them go into a new area (new area to them) that is belly deep in grass.. and the 1st thing that they will do... is to find out where the all the fences and gates are..  when they have satisfied themselves about where the perimeter is.. (which is 2 - 4 trips around the fence line) they will then settle down to graze. 

Longhorns are able to look at a fence and size up the escape possiblies... if it looks sound to them, they won't touch it except to graze under and thru it.. as the grass is always greener on the other side.  But if they preceive a threat they will learn to fence crash.. after all they are survivors as a breed and as individuals.


Longhorns can be broke to an electric fence... we don't use that here. Train them in the same matter as you would a horse... suggest as a training aid: to tie strips of thin cloth about every 10 foot, so they can see the electric wire... they will get shocked when they touch the cloth, and because they have a reference point of seeing the cloth/wire placement, are more likely to jump back away from the fence instead of into it..


We don't own hot-shots .. I use a 5 foot white sorting stick.. this stick is an extension of my left arm.. I point with my right most times..  (reverse when needed)


If you find the cattle jumping and/or running.. they are only reacting to you and your movements.. this means you need to slow down in your actions.. if you will work them calmly and slowly it is easier on them and you, and they never learn to go thru the fence trying to get away from the predator (you)...  Give them time to comply.. and anticipate their possible moves.. if they are actually going in the direction you want them to.. then allow them to continue.. and follow at a slightly slower speed then what they are going at.. maintaining a respectful distance.  This distance is a release/reward to them.


When behind them use their eye to move them right or left..  they will always keep one eye on you.. and you can make them drift right or left depending on where you are when behind them.. (like in an alleyway)  for their left turns be on their right hand/eye side...  for their right hand turns be on their left hand/eye side.


Longhorns have learned to look for an open gate when I have them in our alleys.. so have the gate that you want them to go into already open for them to do so..


Use their shoulder for the focal point like you do with a horse in a round corral when off to their sides..


Call them by their name.. a pasture name is short and simple.. always use their name when talking to them..and every time that you see them.. (most of our herd know their names because of this..)


Use the same command for the same thing/action.. with practice they will make the association.


here  :  ( i can point at the cubes on the ground and they will actually lower their head and look)  this can take practice.. but not much if they are cube hounds.. lol  Note: this was back in the days when we did have cubes before we went grass fed only.


 (name of cow)..  okay... come here.. let's go...  (this lets them know we are on the move)  this is said as a chant, repeating as necessary


(name of cow).. go - say and point where you want them to actually go  (use opposite hand for blocking)


(name of cow).. move over  (I use this when walking past them in the alleys or moving around them in the pasture at the water tank or at their hay ring)  (I also practice walking close to them to see just how close I can get before they 'start' to move from me.. usefull for checking cows that are springing.)


(name of cow).. step up

(name of cow).. load up


wait.. just a minute...  (used when I need them to stand quietly while I open a gate for them.. said in a slow calming manner)


no (safety first, only escalate as needed... no, No, NO, NO wave hat at them, wave hat and loud no, etc.) which ever command that they respond by backing up one or two steps away from you. IF they are charging, all bets are off and move/run to safety.)


Okay   (is a release command... they are then allowed to move away from me)


you're okay.. you're okay  said in a calm soothing manner when they are in the chute, and I am giving them their shots or measuring them...they need to be told that they are okay.. they understand the tone of voice that is used   (this is where i disagree with others about no talking)  but there are always exceptions to this...(and anything else i have mentioned) 

For calves that I want to come to me... I stand or squat quietly by the fenceline.. After I have called them by their name, I will wiggle my fingers on one hand that is resting on the fence thru to their side... Curious calves will slowly approach.. this is the time that I have found it very good to be very quiet and very still.  As the calves approach I will hold my hand still... and let them lick my hand or pull on my clothes.  A few times of this, they will then sneak up behind you in the pasture and tug/chew on your clothes.  As long as they are not tossing their heads/horns at me I will allow them to lick or chew my clothes.. but they have to be respectful. Your voice tones will remind them if they are being too pushy.  If that doesn't work wave your hand... or your cap.  Make them back away from you.  Start with a small reprimand, and only escalate your actions/voice as needed.  They understand body language/voice tones very very well. 

I have talked to them "Like a red headed step child" when they are pushing their limits on not complying with my wishes. Your body language/voice is key... remember you are #1... but also remember being stomped into the ground is not worth it either... several tries will get it done. they will test you with several wrong answers sometimes before they do the right answer. This is also where it pays off to work them in pairs/groups... if you can get the first one to go, then the 2nd one will follow. 

 Remember what is cute from a small calf is Not cute when that calf grows bigger. 


We have 14' and 16' alleys.. when I walk closest to the side of the fence.. they are allowed to go around me... but they are not allowed into my personal space when doing so.. (this is why I carry my 5' white sorting stick)  when I walk the center of the alley they are NOT allowed past me but sometimes will try anyway.. My sorting stick is held in my hand that is closest to the center of the alley but in a neutral type position when they allowed around me. Horizontal when I need to block them from going around me when I don't want them to..

Our Longhorns both follow and go ahead of me... always be prepared to adjust... different things work on different days sometimes.. be flexible and remember to be calm and work calm. 



Please understand I have assumed that you don't know about longhorns.. and have based my comments on what has worked for me..  take what you can use.. and modify anything to fit you and your situation. 


Longhorn Cattle are people watchers, and will learn about you every time they have a visual on you.
they will learn your habits in a very short time..  lol

Sandy Martin