January 18, 2019

Havre Daily News

Tuesday in Chinook stockmanship clinician Tom Curtin spoke to a crowd of more than 50 people about low-stress cattle handling.

Montana State Beef Quality Assurance Coordinator, and volunteer for Curtin, Bill Pelton said Curtin’s methods are a great asset to ranchers and livestock owners because it’s beneficial for the livestock and increases the quality of the meat.

He said he has known Curtin for years and has traveled with him all around the world teaching these methods of low-stress livestock handling. He added that the cattle are the ones that benefit the most from low-stress handling, but increases in profit from each head of cattle benefit the producer. Pelton said that one of the important things Curtin tries to teach during these clinics is to “be in the wrong place at the right time” and for ranchers to pay attention to how they act during these situations.

Pelton said that he has also seen these methods work first hand. For example, he said, he has seen 170 head of cattle that were able to be separated out in less than 15 minutes. He said Curtin’s method is more friendly for consumers, due to the high concern the general public has with how livestock are being treated and wanting to know that whatever they are buying has been handled properly.

They were previously in Malta, Pelton said, doing a clinic for more than 130 people.

Event organizer Larry Surber said that was were he first saw Curtin. He said after seeing Curtin’s methods he thought that it was important that Curtin come to Chinook and talk to the local producers. He said the results from Curtin’s methods have been proven to be beneficial and that any benefit local producers can get to increase production is important.

Surber said he and Lauri Swanson organized the event for local ranchers and FFA Chapters to learn how to manage cattle in a beneficial way. He added that the event would have not been possible without the sponsors, to whom he extended a “thank you.”

Some of the kids involved in the Chinook FFA Chapter also volunteered to prepare a lunch and set up the event.

Surber said he was impressed with how Curtin handled livestock, smoothly and slowly, and was amazed with how effective the method was.

Due to the high interest for this first event, Suber said, hopefully they can get Curtin back sometime this summer to do a larger live demonstration of his method in an actual real-life scenario.

Curtin said his philosophy is understanding the needs of the animal and what they need from him so that he can get them to do what he would like them to do.

He said that he has learned his method of low-stress handling from several great teachers over the years. Ray Hunt, a horseman, and Buster Welch, also a horseman, were a huge influences on his horsemanship and stockmanship, he said. He added that he also knew folks who knew Bud Williams, cattle handling expert and world famous stockman, as well as studying Williams’ informational materials. Curtin said that Eunice Williams, Bud Williams’ wife, has also helped him a tremendous amount.

He said ranchers need to be aware and pay attention to their animals and recognize their behavior so they can better handle them.

“Ray said something to me that really, really intrigued me or that encouraged me and inspired me to keep working on this stuff,” Curtin said. “He said, ‘You need to know what happens before it happens, so that when it happens you know what happened.'”

Curtin said that after Hunt said that, he began watching his animals do things and wait and see what they did afterword.

“If you see an animal begin to do something that you don’t want the animal to do, you can discourage him at that point,” Curtin said. “Once it has made up its mind it’s too late. If you can, head that off because you have seen signs in it’s behavior earlier.

“If it was something that you wanted the animal to do you could encourage that behavior,” he said, “if it was something that you didn’t want it to do you could discourage it.”

Curtin added that once a person understands what their animals need, the facility is irrelevant because then the rancher is working with the animals’ natural instinct of what they naturally want to do.

“You take animals’ natural instinct when they get bothered or worried about things they circle,” he said.

What he is trying to understand, he said, is when those animals feel good, the animals’ natural instinct is to want to walk by and see where the pressure is coming from verses not being able to see in solid confinement.

Make the animals more comfortable by allowing them to do what they naturally like to do, he said, cattle naturally like to see, like to see where the pressure is coming from, people need to avoid blind spots, do things to allow them to naturally walk by them.

He takes those things and teaches the animals that it is OK because that is what they naturally want to do anyways and use that to advantage to get the job done that needs to get done.

“I want these people to leave here with another way of looking at things,” Curtin said, “coming from the perspective of the animal to be able to have the ability to keep their animals safe, keep themselves safe and make a better working atmosphere for both.”

He said that on top of that the financial gain will be tremendous.

When these cattle are handled properly, he said, they have been finding that the cattle have no where near the sickness involved.

Curtin said Bud Williams mentioned that the three best drugs to give livestock are good food, good water and good handling.

Stress, Curtin said, is the number one cause of diseases, people can’t keep disease from being around, but low-stress results in better health and cattle being less susceptible to these diseases. People can save money on medication and drugs, lower death loss and increase performance, he said.

“I don’t want to change you,” Curtin said. “I want to give you more options, you’ll do the changing.”

“What I am trying to teach has to do with life,” Curtin said. “Doesn’t have to do with any specific species.”

Chester FFA Chapter Advisor Kalee Knust said the event was very informative and she could see the importance in Curtin’s methods.

FFA member Jordan Leach, 12, said she never thought about being able to handle cattle in that way and was fascinated with the concept of the method.

Havre Daily News/Ryan Berry

Fellow FFA member Aria Miller, 12, said that she would use this method herself if she owned cattle and was excited to share the idea with a few of her friends who did.

They all agreed that if Curtin was going to come back to Chinook for another clinic that they would attend.

Kevin and Jessica Aberg, ranchers south of Chinook, said they have been practicing these methods for a long period of time, without knowing exactly why it worked the way it did. Kevin Aberg said it was good to get a refresher and to hear new ideas on how they can better work their cattle.

He added that low-stress cattle handling profits everybody in the industry and would like these methods to be more commonly used. Aberg added that he would suggest other people to attend these clinics in order to see the benefit.