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If you’ve ever wished you could read your animal’s minds, then Temple Grandin is the person who can get you closer to that goal. Before reading her books, I never thought about how being a prey animal affects the personality of livestock. Imagine how nervous you would be if you knew intuitively that you could literally be someone’s lunch. Understanding that one fact has helped me to understand my animals so much more.
If you never owned livestock (like me) before moving to your homestead, your pets were probably all predators (dogs and cats). You never thought of them that way, however, because you probably never saw them kill another animal. But predators are much more brazen in new situations, and they tend to adapt to new people more quickly. I’ve heard people say that they don’t understand why their new sheep or goats are not more friendly with them. “Animals have always loved me,” they say. Yes, but those animals were probably all predatory animals, and prey animals have an entirely different mindset. Temple’s advice to sit down in the pasture and let livestock come to you is spot on. After all, predators stalk their prey, so if you chase livestock, you’re acting like a predator, and their instinct says to run! Even if you approach them slowly, if they don’t know you, they are still going to be scared because some predators sneak up on their prey slowly. (Think about a cat slowly creeping up on a mouse.)
When I saw Temple Grandin’s newest book, I had to have it, so I asked the publisher for a review copy. Temple Grandin’s Guide to Working With Farm Animals: Safe, Humane Livestock Handling Practices for the Small Farm gives every livestock owner the information they need to move their animals from place to place intelligently, as well as dozens of little tips to keep yourself safe and your animals less stressed. I especially enjoyed her section on using genetics to improve personality and how to reduce stress on your stock while castrating, tagging, and weaning. She explains the psychological differences between bottle-fed and dam-raised males and why bottle-fed bulls are more likely to kill someone than a dam-raised bull.
The book is filled with diagrams and drawings explaining how to move animals through chutes and gates, into pens and pastures and slaughter facilities. In fact, Temple has created cattle handling facilities for some of the largest livestock companies in the world, and this book contains designs that you can build yourself. This book is specifically written for the small farmer. There is hardly a page without photographs or drawings. If I were teaching a class on large livestock, this would be required reading. You might be able to fumble your way through with handling sheep and goats, but with pigs and cattle, you really need to work smarter, and this book can help you do that.