Draft Animal Power – Draft animals and sustainable land stewardship › Forums › Draft Animal Power › Training Working Animals › Are they trained?
- February 3, 2013 at 5:28 pm #44427
The last couple of days I have been working my steers around more people that usual. I think this is great, as they get more exposure to new things and practice standing still while I carry on a conversation. They are great at standing and only if I talk for a long while do they start to get antsy. One funny thing happens though, everybody asks “Are they trained?” while they stand stock still and the neighbors dog runs around barking. I don’t really know how to respond. I have come to understand that training is not a fixed place but rather a constant continum. So yes my steers are obviously trained to some degree but the perfectionist in me is always seeing ways they could improve. The question came up so often that I know everybody must get this at some time. How do you respond to this inquiry? Just a little public relations topic, I am curious how other teamster handle the public who may not know much about training animals.February 3, 2013 at 9:00 pm #76990Donn HewesKeymaster
Hi Kevin, In spite of the fact that it has gotten me in trouble many times (with parents!); I like to use the analogy that the animals are like 6 y/o children. Huge variability amongst young children, but basicly they all need our direction to cross the street. We teach them simple manors. Take things we offer politely. Wait when we ask you to. Stay calm and relax. People realize it is a continuum with children, therefore it is easier to see it with the animals.
PS. I have no children; that’s what really gets people!February 3, 2013 at 10:58 pm #77001OxhillParticipant
I don’t think I have ever been asked that. “How long did it take to train them?” Seems to be a favorite.February 4, 2013 at 2:52 am #76996
It was a definite trend because at least three people asked “Are they trained?” in the same day. I wasn’t really expecting that question yet alone it coming up again and again. I like the childhood analogy and I have used that example. I mainly tell my apprentices that when I am working the steers I am not fully paying attention to them, because it is like having a kid around you always have to be watching them. I actually want to make that a little clearer to our workers this year, because it became a problem when they were asking about things when I was yoking or hitching or just working the steers. I found it kinda annoying that they did not wait until a better moment to ask a question or tell me something. Any advice from teamsters that work around apprentices, interns, or other workers? How do you handle working animal etiquette? Obviously there are times you can talk to others and then there are times you cannot. I wonder how others handle these situations?February 6, 2013 at 1:55 am #76991greyParticipant
When they ask a question at an inopportune moment, don’t answer right away. Wait until the moment you would have preferred they had asked. If you are forced to acknowledge the asker, to stave off additional repetitions of the question, a lifted finger (to show “one moment”) or a quick “Hang on…” should suffice for all but the most dense.
People who don’t work animals don’t understand about nonverbal communication bandwith requirements.February 6, 2013 at 3:42 am #76997
@grey 39723 wrote:
People who don’t work animals don’t understand about nonverbal communication bandwith requirements.
Well put, I am amazed at how much of my communication with the steers is body position, and other non verbal cues. If you think about it all but the most vocal animals don’t make half as much sound as we do. Humans can really make a lot of noise in comparison. Maybe we would do better if we didn’t make so much noise all the time.February 6, 2013 at 2:43 pm #76994Tim HarriganParticipant
@Kevin Cunningham 39730 wrote:
Well put, I am amazed at how much of my communication with the steers is body position, and other non verbal cues. If you think about it all but the most vocal animals don’t make half as much sound as we do. Humans can really make a lot of noise in comparison. Maybe we would do better if we didn’t make so much noise all the time.
I agree with that 100%. And the more noise we make the less meaning it has for the animals. My guess is that while chatty teamsters believe they are communicating verbally, the animals actually filter the noise out and rely on visual cues almost exclusively. Animals have limited means to comprehend our intentions so the direction needs to be clear and consistent; otherwise it loses its meaning. I don’t talk much when I am working, mostly when we are on a load and I want them to stay focused. I am sure I talk more when I am driving from behind where it is difficult for them to see me. I also know that when I am silent I can turn or stop them with no more than a slight turn of my hand. They watch closely, and are more perceptive than we often give them credit for. But they are not particularly interested in trying to please you if they are not convinced of the leadership you provide.
These things you mention are why I really do not enjoy being in public with my animals. You really do not realize how focused on them you are until someone is distracting you with these kind of questions. The team can get use to it but they notice the inattentiveness and will take advantage of it if you are not careful.February 6, 2013 at 3:09 pm #76998
@Tim Harrigan 39744 wrote:
These things you mention are why I really do not enjoy being in public with my animals. You really do not realize how focused on them you are until someone is distracting you with these kind of questions. The team can get use to it but they notice the inattentiveness and will take advantage of it if you are not careful.
This is what I am struggling with as our farm is a very public place sometimes. Often there are shareholders, or other customers, families with children, our interns, or neighbors around. You just never know when somebody might stop by for better or worse. I know that I have to focus when I am working them but I also have to have a public persona when dealing with customers especially. People love to see the animals and I think this is a great learning/marketing oppurtunity, but the skill that it requires as a teamster might be a bit over my level sometimes. I am working on it and my boys are usually good, and I think often times the best thing for me to do is find a way to gracefully exit. The hardest examples are when an intern runs over with a seemingly super pressing problem, which it sometimes is most of the times not, and they need something addressed right away. I am working at my ability to calm them down, keep control of the animals and start problem solving a solution. I never thought that farming would require so much multi tasking.February 6, 2013 at 3:42 pm #77002f3farmsParticipant
I like to tell people they are in training.the minute you think your animals are completely broke is when you let your guard down and some goes wrong.February 6, 2013 at 8:27 pm #76993CharlyBonifazMember
I’m never sure, who trains whom :confused:February 6, 2013 at 9:04 pm #76992greyParticipant
If it’s more than just an inopportune moment… if you need to be left alone while you work for an hour or two at a stretch, then maybe you need to take the person aside and explain about the amount of attention that you need to pay to your animals while you are working them. People who don’t do it, don’t understand it. They don’t understand how much active participation is required of the teamster to keep things running smoothly. How much of your focus is necessary to see the subtle shift of intent and head things off before they become a noticeable problem. How much of your attention is occupied just by being near the animals that are under your supervision.February 7, 2013 at 1:48 am #76995Tim HarriganParticipant
Maybe you can have an intern come over and tend to the cattle when you are tied up with someone.February 7, 2013 at 3:50 pm #76999
We are gearing up for this next season, doing apprentice interviews and such. This year I am going to start the season with a little talk about how to act and respond around working animals as nobody has any experience being around them. I think that by stating the ground rules early I can stop any problems early. With humans clear communication often requires more noise. 🙂February 8, 2013 at 1:14 am #77000AnonymousInactive
I had to start my interns out with the horses and most of them were intimidated enough to not question me, I had one intern who for some reason bothered the mares to the point where I couldnt allow him to clean out the stalls without worrying he would get knocked around. One day when trimming hooves the horse just started acting up and wouldnt settle, that same boy came walking around the corner with a question about 30 seconds later, once he left she settled back down??? I had a few close calls with interns and the rules because stronger that steel.
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