At Cadfor Murray Greys we call ourselves “The Quiet Achievers”. This is no marketing gimmick – we only keep and breed quiet cattle. People that have inspected our stock or bought our bulls nearly always mention the quiet temperament of our cattle are and how easy they are to handle. We are so confident about the temperament of our cattle that we offer a 100% Quality Assurance Guarantee. We will replace any bull that has a temperament problem.
Some clients that are new to cattle have asked “How do you get them so quiet?” The answer, like most things to do with cattle, is part breeding and part management.
Breeding quiet cattle
It must be said that the early breeders of Murray Greys did a superb job in establishing the breed with such good temperaments. This was probably assisted by the inspection system that was administered by the Classifiers employed by the Murray Grey Society. In the early days most breeders had to upgrade to Purebred status by crossing Murray Grey bulls with Angus females. The resulting temperaments were variable and we sold one of our four original B and C grade animals because she was pretty mad. Because most Murray Greys were very quiet it was not hard to identify and cull the individuals that wanted to spook or run away.
Selecting a quiet bull
For 40 years we have paid a lot of attention on identifying and purchasing quiet bulls. Initially we bought bulls at sales, such as the MG National, where the bulls were led and shown. As part of their preparation they were broken to halter, handled, led, groomed, clipped and generally quietened. It is hard to assess temperaments in these animals especially when they are tethered for inspection. Most bulls do not like you entering their personal space around their head and the reaction they demonstrate is important. We found that when we, as strangers, came close to the bull’s head we could judge his attitude to people. Any snorting or shaking of the head and we took that animal off our list of potential purchases.
When buying at ‘on property’ sales where bulls are in small pens the same method of assessment can be used. When approaching the animal, especially towards the head, he should move away not shake his head. We find that the closer you can get, the better the temperament.
Quiet bulls are essential because they breed quiet calves which grow into quiet matrons which, when bred to quiet bulls, produce even quieter calves. The advantages are obvious – quiet bulls are safer and easier to handle. We usually handle our bulls on foot and we like them to walk to where they need to go. We usually carry a stick to ensure they show respect.
All Cadfor bulls have a quiet temperament
Below we show photos of some of the bulls that we have purchased over the past 20 years. None of these bulls had been broken in, haltered or led before purchase. None had been hand fed at “Cadfor” after purchase or before the photos were taken. These bulls submitted to being scratched in the middle of a paddock.
It is funny how an animal will sometimes let you scratch them – it is not something we do frequently with our bulls. It is most common at the end of winter or early spring when they are shedding hair or might have the odd louse. Trying to scratch your bulls is not something we would advise people to try unless they are very confident in the animal. However, it does demonstrate that the animal is very quiet and that he is trusting.
Managing your cattle to make them quiet
The management procedure that has the greatest effect on the quietness of cattle is “yard weaning“. Details of our method has been given previously http://cadfor.com.au/2013/07/19/yard-weaning-gives-good-results/ Learn to train your cattle in a stress free manner. Good advice on how to train your cattle is given here. Walking around the cattle during weaning gets them used to you. When we feed cattle hay during winter or droughts we walk around the hay feeder requiring the cattle move out of our space. This is particularly important for bulls.
Moving around your herd
There are other important issues that make your cattle quiet. Going around your cattle on foot, in a vehicle or on a horse gets them used to your presence. Working dogs should be avoided because they tend to make cattle kick and cows get more protective of their calves with a dog around. If any animal routinely puts its head up and runs away mark it down for culling. We also cull any animal that kicks or even attempts to.
As a stud we need to have quiet cows because we catch, weigh and tag their calves within 24 hours of birth. We expect the newly calved cow to come up and be concerned about her calf but we do not accept any aggressive behaviour.
When we rotate cattle between paddocks we call them to the open gate. We then stand near the gate and require the cattle to come past us. Initially some of the calves are cautious about going past so we move back a little until the calves are brave enough to go through. Cattle soon get used to going to new pasture and the calves at foot also learn the routine.
When your cattle stay lying down, chewing their cuds as you walk through them, you know you are doing well.