Cattle WorkRanch and Farm

Bite Is Might

By February 17, 2015July 5th, 2017No Comments


by Tony Rohne

Bite is an essential part of handling cattle whether it be a truckload of 300 pound calves or a pasture full of cows with calves. Here are some examples.

1. A few years ago, I needed to sell some calves to make a bank note payment. When I got to the pasture, one of the tires on my trailer was low so I aired it up. A cousin had needed to borrow the license plate so I had to rob one off of another trailer. By the time I got to the pasture, the cows were in the shade. It was hot. I tried to get them to move with three dogs, but wound up chasing them out on foot. Two of these dogs had a lot of “eye” and there was no way any “evil eye” was going to make these cows get in the sun.

2. I took a dog that would track real well and found a bull who had gotten out of the pasture and was roaming through some open forest land. The dog found the bull but did not want anything else to do with him. The bull was gentle and stubborn. He did not want to go back home. I had to go find someone to help herd him back. All this dog would have needed was to give the bull a peck or two on the cheek.

3. An area rancher called and asked me to pen about 300 calves weighing about 750 pounds early one morning. He was shipping them and the trucks were going to be at the place about 8:30. These calves had been on the same wheat pasture for several months and a few of them were wild as a March Hare. One dog out of the four dog team that I use was hurt and another was in full heat. I threw in a pup for help. The dogs got the calves gathered but everything stalled in the second of four fields we had to go through. It took about an extra hour to stop the calves from breaking over the dogs and go to the pen. We were late for the trucks and no telling how many pound the calves shrunk in the process.

4. Last summer, 15 steers weighing 450 pounds went through a lease pasture fence and got loose on Horseshoe Bend on the Trinity River. At that time, the river was low enough for them to walk over to the next county. These calves could run like the wind. With a four wheeler and three dogs, I led them across about a mile and a half of pasture and forced them to go back through the same hole in the fence. Any time a steer stuck his head out of the bunch, he got dog bit so they never got over 20 yards from me.

I could come up with more Texas Tales to prove a dog has to bite to handle cattle but I would rather go to the pasture instead. If anyone has a dog that will not bite and is good at handling cattle, I want to see it firsthand.

Bite seems to be connected with abusive power. I have a 3/4 Kelpie X 1/4 bulldog, that can get abusive when she bites. I do not use her for light stuff like small stockers. She will get out of control and wind up chasing one calf through the whole
herd. The times I need that type of punch, it is sure good to have it. I think of the policeman who has a ball point pen and a gun.

this article was first published in the December 1996/January 1997 issue of Ranch Dog Trainer Magazine